Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name




Degree Program

Anthropology, MA

Committee Chair

Markowitz, Lisa B.


Coal mines and mining--Social aspects--Kentucky; Coal mines and mining--Economic aspects--Kentucky


Coal mining has been Appalachian Kentucky’s keystone industry for over a century. However, in 2012 and 2013 coal production plummeted, driving industry employment to historic lows. In the wake of production declines, the coal lobby attests that President Obama is waging a “war on coal.” Drawing primarily from ethnographic data, this research offers a holistic and critical examination of the recent decline in coal production and concomitant narratives that have emerged in the wake of socio-economic uncertainty. I argue that “war on coal” discourses, informed by neoliberal philosophies, seek to conflate the region’s mining heritage with the coal industry’s desire to stay competitive in the market. Those who construct and promote war on coal narratives suggest that reducing regulations and taxes for the coal industry will lift the region from poverty. However, findings from this project demonstrate that unbridled extraction have exacerbated, not reduced, poverty in Appalachian Kentucky. Additionally, anti-regulatory practices have exposed the region to greater risks related to mining.

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Anthropology Commons