Electronic Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award

2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

M.A. in History

Department

Arch Dalrymple III Department of History

First Advisor

Charles R. Wilson

Second Advisor

Mikaela Adams

Third Advisor

Elizabeth Payne

Relational Format

dissertation/thesis

Abstract

This thesis will explore the regional and cultural dimensions of the Back-to-the-Land movement during the 1970s in an effort to move scholarship away from applying theoretical constructs such as post-modernism to diverse social movements. By drawing on the three main Back-to-the-Land publications, namely the Whole Earth Catalog, Mother Earth News, and the Foxfire books, this paper will demonstrate the varying impulses and regional nuances of the movement as well as the continuity and discontinuity of the back-to-nature tradition in America. Particular emphasis will be placed on the ways in which the Southern homesteading experience has been masked within the scholarship and how a reexamination of the movement from a Southern perspective can move historiography and historical methodology forward. The analysis put forward in this paper will serve to critique the study of ethnohistory by demonstrating the permeability of Native identities and the ways in which labor in the natural environment constructs identity. Native American and rural Appalachian cultural symbolism was employed by back-to-the-landers who sought out native knowledge through oral histories, most notably obtained in the Foxfire books. The construction of identity through knowledge and work of the physical environment was in no way post-modern because it was grounded in the soil that back-to-the-landers turned for their vegetable gardens.

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