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Religion and Resistance in Appalachia: Faith and the Fight against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining

by Joseph D. Witt

Availablecloth$50.00x 978-0-8131-6812-8
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Place Matters: New Directions in Appalachian Studies
274 pages  Pubdate: 12/09/2016  6 x 9  11 b&w photos

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In the last fifty years, the Appalachian Mountains have suffered permanent and profound change due to the expansion of surface coal mining. The irrevocable devastation caused by this practice has forced local citizens to redefine their identities, their connections to global economic forces, their pasts, and their futures. Religion is a key factor in the fierce debate over mountaintop removal; some argue that it violates a divine mandate to protect the earth, while others contend that coal mining is a God-given gift to ensure human prosperity and comfort.

In Religion and Resistance in Appalachia: Faith and the Fight against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining, Joseph D. Witt examines how religious and environmental ethics foster resistance to mountaintop removal coal mining. Drawing on extensive interviews with activists, teachers, preachers, and community leaders, Witt’s research offers a fresh analysis of an important and dynamic topic. His study reflects a diversity of denominational perspectives, exploring Catholic and mainline Protestant views of social and environmental justice, evangelical Christian readings of biblical ethics, and Native and nontraditional spiritual traditions. By placing Appalachian resistance to mountaintop removal in a comparative international context, Witt’s work also provides new outlooks on the future of the region and its inhabitants. His timely study enhances, challenges, and advances conversations not only about the region, but also about the relationship between religion and environmental activism.

Joseph D. Witt, assistant professor of religion at Mississippi State University, is a contributor to Grounding Religion: A Field Guide to the Study of Religion and Ecology.

Religion and Resistance in Appalachia: Faith and the Fight against Mountaintop Removal Coal Mining captures and interprets the complexities of what is going on—religiously, as well as politically, economically, and socially—among protestors fighting for their homes in Appalachia. Witt’s careful study sheds new light on the role of faith in protest, and anyone interested in religious environmentalism should read this book. -- Kevin O’Brien, associate professor of Christian ethics at Pacific Lutheran University

Witt skillfully describes and analyzes the meaning and significance of place from various religious and utilitarian perspectives, including competing claims to place. This is an important contribution to the publisher’s “Place Matters: New Directions in Appalachian Studies” series and as a historical case study of the activism component of spiritual ecology. This case study certainly deserves wide readership and far more public attention for the phenomena it documents. -- Choice

Joseph Witt’s Religion and Resistance in Appalachia is well written, illuminating, and persuasive on several matters of great importance. Witt’s extensive, concrete, fair-minded, and subtle exploration—drawing on socio-political and ecological evidence, analysis of religious studies scholarship, interviews, and participant observation—gathers a great deal of useful information.

The book is a welcome addition to interdisciplinary literature, especially in Appalachian Studies, about the role of culture in contexts of social conflict. It highlights the multi-layered, fluid, and contested nature of religious practices. -- Reading Religion