“Far Back in American Time”: Culture, Region, Nation, Appalachia, and the Geography of Voice

Revill, George and Gold, John R. (2018). “Far Back in American Time”: Culture, Region, Nation, Appalachia, and the Geography of Voice. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 108(5) pp. 1406–1421.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/24694452.2018.1431104

Abstract

This paper develops a geography of voice in order to address the ways in which cultures, regions and nations are imagined, figured and defined. It adopts Connor’s (2000) notion of ‘vocalic space’ as a starting point from which to explore folk song collecting practices in Appalachia. It develops this in relation to Bauman and Briggs (2003) post-colonial critique of the status of language and speech in ethnographic theory. Historically the Appalachian region has received substantial ethnographic cultural study. Working with insights supplied by the collecting activities and subsequent writings of two key collectors – Cecil Sharp (1859-1924) and Alan Lomax (1915-2002)– this paper offers a socio-material conception of voice key to its affective politics, whilst examining historical theorisations. These are firstly, derived from folklore and ethnography, later anthropology and sociology and secondly, articulated with regard to geographies of region and nation. These are then considered in relation to geographer James Duncan’s (1980, 1998) critique of the ‘superorganic’ as an explanation of regional cultural distinctiveness. It concludes by arguing that a geography of voice can contribute to critical approaches to regionalism. An understanding of how vocalic spaces are figured and assembled is key to explaining how culture can be translated through levels of abstraction in ways which can marginalise and disenfranchise the very peoples given voice in regional studies of culture.

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