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King Coal: A Study of Mountaintop Removal, Public Discourse, and Power in Appalachia
- Bodenhamer, Aysha
- Society & natural resources 2016 v.29 no.10 pp. 1139-1153
- coal, coal industry, interviews, mining, mountains, public relations, Appalachian region, West Virginia
- Extant literature shows the exploitative nature of coal mining in central Appalachia, yet the coal industry continues to dominate West Virginia. Fusing conceptual work on culture and power, this research extends the existing literature by examining how the coal industry is able to secure its hegemony. The coal industry relies on several salient mechanisms to establish a normative culture of coal. However, the destructive practice of mountaintop removal prompts some residents to join grass-roots environmental organizations and speak out against Big Coal in the region. Using newspaper coverage, public relations documents, direct observation, and in-depth interviews, findings highlight the contradictions between the coal industry’s pro-coal discourse and respondents’ lived experiences. Results show how culture, discourse, and material conditions sustain the power of the coal industry in West Virginia.