Researching, Returning, and Resituating: Navigating the Borders Between Home and the Academy

The Appalachian community at Ohio State University has a small but burgeoning presence on our urban campus in Columbus, Ohio. Across the university, scholars are involved with research projects about the people, politics, and culture of the region. Students are finding support and solidarity in newly formed groups that serve and assist first-year undergraduates from Appalachian regions in overcoming commonly experienced barriers in adjusting to college life. The university is formally recognizing the important role of Appalachian scholars and scholarship on our campus. At all levels, students and researchers who are from the region return to their communities throughout the year for visits, fieldwork, and cultural events. The movements of people between Columbus and Appalachian communities afford enlightening perspectives for Appalachian studies, yet also point to existing complexities for those who traverse these geographic spaces and their corresponding social contexts. Whether it is to conduct research or simply to return home, students and scholars navigate not only borders—literal or perceived—between regions, but also between their own multiple social positions. This roundtable poses the question: What does it mean, both individually and institutionally, to cross regional and social borders and orient toward a space and culture in which we are not necessarily physically immersed? What opportunities do our multiple footings afford in terms of facilitating dialogue between our home and academic communities? We hope to foster productive and open conversation about establishing networks of relationships with other institutions and organizations in our state and with the wider Appalachian Studies community.