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Storytelling in precarious landscapes: Insights from a photovoice project in rural Appalachia

Author: Jamie E. Shinn orcid logo (SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry)

  • Storytelling in precarious landscapes: Insights from a photovoice project in rural Appalachia

    Articles

    Storytelling in precarious landscapes: Insights from a photovoice project in rural Appalachia

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Abstract

The impacts of the coronavirus pandemic in the small central Appalachian town of Rainelle, West Virginia cannot be understood separately from the broader human-environment relationships of this place. These relationships are grounded in landscapes that hold tremendous natural beauty alongside the scars of coal and timber extraction, and which now face increased risk of flooding because of the changing climate those extractive industries helped create. Too often, stories of this place lack attention to this complexity because they do not account for the perspective and knowledge of the people who live and make their livelihoods there. This paper details findings from a photovoice project in Rainelle that captured life in the small town in Fall 2020, through the lenses of nine town residents. Their photos tell a story not just of the height of the pandemic in rural America, but also of what happened when the pandemic intersected with ongoing efforts to recover from a devastating flood in 2016 and decades of socio-economic hardship before that. The results show that photovoice is an effective method by which political ecologists can facilitate the telling of stories by and with research participants, while also offering insights for how we might envision more just climate futures with people not typically part of conversations about climate change, such as those from the precarious landscapes of rural Appalachia.

Keywords: Photovoice, Covid, Appalachia, West Virginia, storytelling, flooding

How to Cite:

Shinn, J. E., (2024) “Storytelling in precarious landscapes: Insights from a photovoice project in rural Appalachia”, Journal of Political Ecology 31(1), 234–256. doi: https://doi.org/10.2458/jpe.5290

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Funding

  • West Virginia University Humanities Center

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Published on
02 Apr 2024
Peer Reviewed