Drawing from her work as state folklorist, Emily Hilliard explores contemporary folklife in West Virginia and challenges the common perception of both folklore and Appalachian culture as static, antiquated forms, offering instead the concept of "visionary folklore" as a future-focused, materialist, and collaborative approach to cultural work. With chapters on the expressive culture of the West Virginia teachers' strike, the cultural significance of the West Virginia hot dog, the tradition of independent pro wrestling in Appalachia, the practice of nonprofessional women songwriters, the collective counternarrative of a multiracial coal camp community, the invisible landscape of writer Breece D'J Pancake's hometown, the foodways of an Appalachian Swiss community, the postapocalyptic vision presented in the video game Fallout 76, and more, the book centers the collective nature of folklife and examines the role of the public folklorist in collaborative engagements with communities and culture. Hilliard argues that folklore is a unifying concept that puts diverse cultural forms in conversation, as well as a framework that helps us reckon with the past, understand the present, and collectively shape the future.
Emily Hilliard is a folklorist and writer currently based in Berea, Kentucky. From 2015-2021 she worked as the West Virginia State Folklorist and Founding Director of the West Virginia Folklife Program. She is a 2021-2022 American Folklife Center Archie Green Fellow for a project documenting the occupational culture of rural mail carriers in Central Appalachia. Find more of her work at emilyehilliard.com.
Joshua Clark Davis is an associate professor of U.S. history at the University of Baltimore. He’s currently writing Police Against the Movement: The Sabotage of the Civil Rights Struggle and the Activists Who Fought Back, a narrative history of radical civil rights organizers in the 1960s who challenged police abuses and the police who retaliated against them with surveillance, infiltration, and legal prosecution. He’s also the author of From Head Shops to Whole Foods: The Rise and Fall of Activist Entrepreneurs and co-editor of the essay collection Baltimore Revisited: Stories of Inequality and Resistance in a U.S City. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The Nation, Jacobin, _and The Washington Post._