Drawing from her work as state folklorist, Emily Hilliard explores contemporary folklife in West Virginia and challenges the common perception of both folklore and Appalachian culture as static, antiquated forms, offering instead the concept of “visionary folklore” as a future-focused, materialist, and collaborative approach to cultural work.
With chapters on the expressive culture of the West Virginia teachers’ strike, the cultural significance of the West Virginia hot dog, the tradition of independent pro wrestling in Appalachia, the practice of nonprofessional women songwriters, the collective counternarrative of a multiracial coal camp community, the invisible landscape of writer Breece D’J Pancake’s hometown, the foodways of an Appalachian Swiss community, the postapocalyptic vision presented in the video game Fallout 76, and more, the book centers the collective nature of folklife and examines the role of the public folklorist in collaborative engagements with communities and culture. Hilliard argues that folklore is a unifying concept that puts diverse cultural forms in conversation, as well as a framework that helps us reckon with the past, understand the present, and collectively shape the future.
Making Our Future: Visionary Folklore and Everyday Culture in Appalachia is available from the University of North Carolina Press.
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