Interrogating Southern Appalachian Identity

Foxfire is an active member of its local and regional community. The organization preserves and interrogates Appalachian identity and culture, as well as capturing change as it happens. With deep roots in the larger Southern Appalachian community, Foxfire is in a unique position to bridge the gaps between generations and social groups. For many, Foxfire represents common ground on which to engage with Appalachian culture. The student-centered Foxfire magazine program provides young people in Southern Appalachia a platform for interpreting their own culture in a way that is authentic and free of socio-political influences. The resulting archive of ethnographic material is likewise untainted. This provides an unbiased and historically-oriented foundation for encouraging community conversations on issues encountered throughout Appalachia. Located in Rabun County, Georgia, a region undergoing a demographic shift, Foxfire is witness to the changing economic and cultural landscape. We invite others to join us for a conversation on how this impacts Appalachian identity. Specifically, we wish to hold a dialogue on the growing the issue of cultural appropriation - at the macro and micro level - affecting our communities.

For native Appalachians, culture is very much rooted in place - here, geography plays a significant role in sculpting identity. However, new voices are emerging and other identities are settling in the region. Foxfire hopes to facilitate a discussion in which present-day Appalachians engage in a mutually-respectful dialogue that includes these diverse voices and investigates how we can begin to define an inclusive identity that respects the past but represents the future.

Guiding Questions:

What is cultural appropriation? What are some examples of cultural appropriation within the context of Appalachia? Is cultural appropriation always negative? If not, what are some benefits?

What is the relationship between cultural appropriation and rural gentrification? What role do natural resources play? Who has authority or agency over natural and cultural resources at risk?

Who has the authority to determine who or what makes someone Appalachian? How do we define Appalachian identity? How do we avoid an us vs. them mentality while preserving the uniqueness and sanctity of regional identity?

Should communities change and redefine identities to include the identities and cultures of new settlers to the area, whether wealthy retirees or immigrant workers?