The primary themes for 41st Annual Appalachian Studies Association Conference: Re-stitching the Seams: Appalachia Beyond Its Borders, to be held in downtown Cincinnati at the Millennium and Hyatt Hotels, April 5-8, 2018, include:
Diversity and Inclusion
These sessions will explore issues related to race, class, gender, sexuality, ability, age, religion, and ethnicity. While our differences continue to impact political and economic empowerment, educational attainment, personal safety, civil rights, and human dignity in the mountains, the region has been in the national spotlight for clashes over beliefs and values. This has led to significant court cases, rallies, and boycotts that have garnered national media attention.
Discussions that address any area of these topics are welcome—examples include public policy, current litigation, grassroots efforts to foster diversity and inclusion, the larger political climate of intolerance (e.g. the vilification of Muslims), and the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as its historical antecedent, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
The dramatic decline in living standards and life expectancy in Appalachia, the Rust Belt, and other areas of the U.S. that has accompanied the rise of outsourcing and a high-tech, service-oriented economy is intensified in Central Appalachia by the coal industry’s sharp contraction in recent years. Political divisions and timidity hinder progress toward a better Appalachian economy, and both major parties have failed to adequately prioritize or put forward sufficiently ambitious policies to address the region’s economic problems. We invite you to help us develop bold, alternative plans and strategies for transitioning to a more just and sustainable economy while recognizing the complexity and difficulty of the task. We especially seek proposals that highlight local development, reconcile economic growth with community well-being, and foster solidarity and cooperation among polarized community members working towards a diversified and high-wage economy.
This theme will focus on education access, pedagogy, and innovation. Presentations might address education availability; implementation and impact of early childhood education programs; integration of technology in all facets of the educational process; innovative approaches to outcomes in public and private elementary, middle, and high school classrooms; regional approaches to education for students with special educational needs, including gifted education; community-based auxiliary educational concepts and public/private partnerships; the elimination of access and affordability barriers to post-secondary options; culturally significant curriculum; efforts to address social issues affecting students and families and their communities; arts- and heritage-centered educational opportunities for technologically minded students; and initiatives that promote positive outcomes at all stages of academic development.
Our focus for these sessions is the ongoing dialogue among Appalachians about the vital interconnections between our communities and the land, water and air that sustain us. The meaning of that sustainability will be explored through a review of current ecological problems, remediation efforts, and challenges being met by citizens in both rural and urban areas of the Appalachian region. Proposals are invited that will address the legacy of environmental exploitation by the coal industry; current issues related to fracking for natural gas in the region; and grassroots environmental advocacy via legislation, citizen scientist monitoring, and action toward restoring our natural and human resources. Other vital topics might include challenges facing revitalization efforts; restoring our agricultural legacy via community supported farms and home gardening; establishing and maintaining access to healthy, organic food; recycling; and redefining economic development in the context of social and environmental justice.
Appalachia has been at the forefront of an on-going decline in health among Americans. Chronic illnesses such as heart disease and diabetes, as well as lung and colorectal cancer occur at rates much higher than the national average. What do we know about the causes of these trends and which programs have made progress toward reversing them? These sessions will focus on health disparities in Appalachia and issues such as affordability of and access to care (including dental care); community health planning and education; preventive care, including nutrition and physical activity; substance abuse, treatment, and recovery; medical infrastructure, and environmental and cultural factors that are impacting wellness.
Historical migration streams have shaped Appalachia from its geographic heartland to its borderlands. From the first hunter-gatherers through the twentieth-century Great Migration, human mobility defined the region culturally, geographically, and economically. Appalachian migration also shaped the demography, economics, and culture of many other regions, including the Northern Kentucky-Cincinnati-Miami Valley region. What stories remain to be told from this experience? How have music and art, the written and spoken word sustained, transformed, and revitalized Appalachian identity? Which organizations and community programs have supported Appalachian migrants? What issues of economic and social justice face those coming to the mountain region and those leaving it behind? How does the current political climate inform these questions locally, nationally, and globally? And what strategies can we share that make people more resilient to adversity and change in new environments?
The Urban Appalachian Community Coalition is the first community organization to host the conference, meaning that we are operating without the organizational infrastructure that a university would provide. We are in the midst of an eighteen-month planning schedule, which includes program planning, community outreach, publicity, and fundraising. We welcome your involvement!