I am collecting stories for a book length oral history project that seeks to map the queer social worlds of the Appalachian region in Ohio.
I plan to post updates, clips of transcripts, and photographs as I collect them.
If you would like to have your story of living in the region collected, please reach out to me through the contact page.
Beginning in the nineteenth century, politicians, writers, scholars, and theorists have painted Appalachia as a socially backwards, religiously hostile, and sexually deviant place that is inhospitable to queer individuals. While in the early twentieth century this took the form of eugenics research and policy that sought to eradicate traits associated with people in the region, such as “feeblemindedness” and “imbecility,” this practice in the twenty first century has taken the form of rhetorical practices that seek to paint Appalachia as a region that deserves the poverty and environmental destruction happening to it. The mainstream LGBTQ movement and queer theory have unintentionally exacerbated these practices through research and activism that reinforce negative stereotypes of the region and circumscribe and foreclose Appalachia as a livable region for queer people. While some scholars have begun to challenge such a narrow view of Appalachia, the voices of queer people in Appalachia as experts of their own condition remain largely absent.
My project seeks to map the queer social world of Appalachia using oral history. I pay particular attention to feminist and queer methods, and seek to radically challenge the normative researcher/subject dichotomy by examining how stories are co-produced within queer families, thus implicating myself as a co-narrator/listener in the story collection process. In doing so, I seek to create nuanced research methods for studying queer people in Appalachia, and to show not just the possibility but the vibrancy of everyday queer life in the region.
Keywords: Appalachia, Queer Theory, Rurality, Oral History, Family Folklore
*This project is generously funded by a grant and fellowship from the Charles Phelps Taft Research Center at the University of Cincinnati.