The theme of the 2014 conference is “New Appalachia: Known Realities and Imagined Possibilities.” It will feature a keynote on contemporary Appalachian issues by Silas House and a series of three “New Appalachia” plenary sessions designed to explore stories from and about the region, said Dr. Linda Spatig, the conference chair and a professor of educational foundations in the College of Education and Professional Development.
“The aim is to deepen our understanding of Appalachia and of our human experience more broadly, by engaging with ideas – and with each other – in lively, innovative ways,” Spatig said. She added that in addition to the keynote and plenary sessions, the conference will feature a large array of individual and group presentations, including academic papers, panels, workshops, readings, films, performance and, new this year, three “Come to the Table” sessions to invite new involvement in ASA. These are specifically designed to give newcomers a chance to meet others in the association and learn about and create ways to become involved.
Faculty and students from a number of Marshall’s programs will be among those presenting their research at the conference, including scholars from the colleges of arts and media, liberal arts, science, health professions, and education and professional development, as well as the Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine. Their presentation topics range from midwifery to ecology to language.
“We got a generous grant from the West Virginia Humanities Council and the things they’re sponsoring, which include the Friday night keynote speaker and the plenary sessions, are free and open to the public,” Spatig said. “Also, Marshall students with current IDs can attend anything at the conference free. The mixed-genre, interdisciplinary sessions will draw on everything from history and literature to music and storytelling, she said.
The plenary sessions tie past heritage to present legacy. They are:
- “Me? An Appalachian Stereotype? I Thought My Stories Worked Against That;”
- “Appalachian Women, A Herstory of Oppression and Resistance;” (sponsored by MU Women’s Center); and
- “Collaborative Ethnography, Collaborative Research: Co-imagining New Possibilities for Appalachian Studies.”
In addition to the scheduled sessions, there will be several receptions and events, including a Saturday night concert – New Appalachian Voices: An Evening with NPR and Mountain Stage’s Ron Sowell. In addition to Sowell, the concert, to be held in the Joan C. Edwards Performing Arts Center, will feature special guests Johnny Staats, Butch Osborne, the Appalachian Children’s Choir, and award-winning duo The Sea The Sea. A post-concert, open-mic event, hosted by award-winning West Virginia storyteller Adam Booth, will be held at Black Sheep Burrito and Brews.
On Saturday afternoon, businesses in downtown Huntington will host a “Stroll, Sip, and Shop” event. In addition to many unique, locally-owned shops, the event will feature two art exhibits—one in the Morris Building and one at Gallery 842. “We’re trying to make good connections with downtown Huntington,” Spatig said. “A lot of downtown shops are going to stay open later, until about 6 o’clock, on that Saturday, so they can accommodate the conference attendees.”
On Friday and Saturday evenings, a series of independent Appalachian films will be shown in the Francis-Booth Experimental Theatre on the MU campus. Also, local musicians, as well as those visiting from elsewhere, will be performing throughout the conference.
This will be the second time the conference has been at Marshall, which houses the Appalachian Studies Association. Mary K. Thomas is the executive director.
For more information about the conference, including a full schedule of programs, visit http://www.appalachianstudies.org/annualconference/.