Collective Identity in Appalachia: Place, Protest and the AEP Power Line


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Virginia Tech


Previously, social movement theory has focused on constructs of identity, such as race/ethnicity, gender and sexual preference, for collective identity construction. Prochansky (1983:59) introduces the concept of place identity, situating it along with the other components of identity, such as the ones mentioned above. In addition, literature on Appalachia has shown land to be an important construct of Appalachian peoples identity. This paper analyzes, through content analysis, the collective identities of writers who wrote letters to the U.S. Forest Service in opposition to a proposed AEP power line. This power line was to run through lands in Appalachia, such as various private properties, the Jefferson and George Washington National Forests, and across the New River. Collective identities based on place-identity, specifically including land, were the main target of analysis, due to the importance of land for Appalachian people. This analysis suggests that land, as a type of place identity, does serve as a basis for collective identity.



Social Movement Organizations, Appalachia, Place Identity, Collective Identity