Mountaintop removal, activism, and the commitment to progress in industrial sacrifice zones: the socialization of class in west virginia

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Publication Type dissertation
School or College College of Humanities
Department Communication
Author Richards, Matthew Steven
Title Mountaintop removal, activism, and the commitment to progress in industrial sacrifice zones: the socialization of class in west virginia
Date 2016
Description This dissertation project analyzes tensions between class and rhetoric conflicts over coal in West Virginia, particularly contemporary conflicts over Mountaintop Removal (MTR) in the state. In it, I focus on how class animates rhetorics of resistance, identity, and control, (re)examining and recalibrating the relationship between rhetoric and class as vital to the construction of rhetorical theory on one hand and the contemporary salience of class on the other. Here, class broadly refers to the way populations are separated and stratified based on analytics and ideals of value (economic security and mobility being one), primarily articulated to align with teleological commitments to progress as they are defined alongside capitalism and deliberative democracy. Drawing from critiques of sociology, I forward what I call the socialization of class. The socialization of class is the long and deeply engrained process of making populations legible as classed or less inherently valuable. This process depends on varied iterations of class that rely on and enforce one another in the world-making process. As a result, I contend that class is always a rhetorical phenomenon, tangible because of and salient in the social (both material and abstract) is dynamics that have become normal in the contemporary world. In turn, I also contend that rhetoric, as both a field and a practice, has prominent and often unexamined classed dimensions and forward the socialization of class as a way of (re)examining the political tenors that undergird much of rhetorical theory. Appalachian populations, and more specifically West Virginia and its people, have been historically juxtaposed to progress, cultivating material and ideological differences that are used to make Appalachian populations legible in the American imagination. Those differences both animate and are animated by practices, perceptual orientations, and rhetorical maneuvers. Consequently, to elucidate and recalibrate the relationship between rhetoric and class I explore the history of coal in West Virginia and its reliance on varied commitments to progress. Then, I analyze public discourses and events that engage MTR conflicts, focusing heavily on popular West Virginia newspaper articles, editorials, and letters to the editor between approximately 2006 and 2013. I attempt to pay particular attention to the way more contemporary rhetorical appeals are indebted to the history of creating a dependent culture in West Virginia, a conscious goal of the coal mining industry since just before the turn of the 20th Century. In addition to challenging implicit theoretical commitments to progress, the goal here is to formulate a heuristically valuable approach to class that helps make sense of the contemporary demands facing and opportunities available to activists in marginalized communities, particularly rural Appalachia.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Subject Appalachia; Class; Coal; Coal Mining; Socialization of Class
Dissertation Name Doctor of Philosophy
Language eng
Rights Management ¬©Matthew Steven Richards
Format Medium application/pdf
ARK ark:/87278/s6sf70wf
Setname ir_etd
Date Created 2018-06-12
Date Modified 2018-06-12
ID 1341316
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6sf70wf
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