(Re)Creating Hope and (re)Writing the Appalachian Narrative

This presentation will ask questions about rural stereotype threat--not only within a historical (mis)representation of the hillbilly trope but within a present day Hillbilly "Elegy" trope, punctuated by documentaries such as Heroin(e) and other media texts that exploit Appalachia as weak, destroyed, and hopeless. Appalachia is not a foregone conclusion--and we must present opportunities for students to rewrite the rural narrative. A critical pedagogy of place (Gruenwald, 2003) and conscientização (Freire, 1970)--the idea of being critically awake to oppressive forces--will serve as a theoretical frame to critique and deconstruct the neoliberalization of education that devalues the importance of the local and historied identities of place, and allows for the pervasively negative and damning stereotypes of Appalachian people and places. Without a critical literacy frame for evaluating these tropes, students are unable to reinhabit (Gruenwald, 2003) the places they value or to engage in social action that serves to sustain health, economy, and education in Appalachia. How can they recreate a vision of hope or rewrite the narrative on what it means to “live well” within a place when the most vocal narratives are ones shaped by fear and trauma?