Ethnographic Resistance and Refusal in the Sacrifice Zone

This session explores the concepts of resistance and refusal as enacted among, with, between, and for people living in and interacting with Appalachia.  Social science studies of resistance have examined the manipulation of behavior among the marginalized and “weak” in response to authoritarian power (Scott 1985), situated resistance in the framework of social movements and social justice efforts (Alexandrakis 2016), and interrogated resistance as functionally deviant behavior designed to either maintain or disrupt the social order.  Correspondingly, the concept of refusal presents the space for social scientists to examine what it means when marginalized and oppressed peoples refuse to accept the legitimacy of authorities, including turning their backs on the granting or rights, recognitions, and/or protection when sanctioned by those hegomonically-constructed authorities (Simpson 2014, 2016 and McGranahan 2016).  


Both resistance and refusal, when invoked as theoretical concepts, challenge us to think through the articulation and construction of inclusionary and exclusionary demands within the state, and connects us to the histories of gendered, racist, ableist colonial constructions that precipitated the very need for rights-making.  In addition, when individual or collective acts are situated within the context of resistance and/or refusal, we can challenge the notion that the acts are the end-result of culture and imagine the ways that resistance and/or refusal are the pathways towards imagining transformative ways of being and knowing.  


These papers situate resistance and refusal in Appalachia, where actions must be understood within a political ecology of the geographic space.  Examples include the recreation of power through acts of storytelling, negotiations of trust in research processes when acts of resistance and refusal manifest, and the politics of engaged teaching and learning in Appalachia.  In presenting examples of resistance and refusal, we interrogate the relationships between participants and researchers, insiders and outsiders, global and local, and voices and silence. 

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