Introducing 'Appalachian Places'


Sense of place. This phrase, popularized by cultural geographers, sometimes describes the idea that a particular place can evoke certain impressions, emotions, and reactions by human beings as they experience that landscape. More commonly, sense of place refers to the awareness, commitments, and connections people form to a particular place. In Appalachia, sense of place has long been an important concept in both meanings of the phrase, describing both the power of the mountain landscape and the strong attachment that residents of the region have demonstrated for the places they call home. As we pondered an appropriate name for this new publication, we sought one that would capture this sense of place, and Appalachian Places was born.


The East Tennessee State University Department of Appalachian Studies is delighted to welcome you to the first issue of our new publication. This digital magazine, the successor to Now & Then: The Appalachian Magazine, builds on a long tradition of publishing excellence. The ETSU Center of Excellence for Appalachian Studies and Services published Now & Then from 1984 until 2017, except for a brief period in the early 2000s. It became obvious that a digital publication was the best way to ensure the continued relevance of the magazine to the Appalachian region and make its content available to a wider audience. After much preparation, Appalachian Places is finally here.


ETSU was founded in 1911 to contribute to a better quality of life for the people of its region, which continues to be its central mission than a century later. The Department of Appalachian Studies and Center of Excellence are dedicated to support that mission through our range of programs in education, research, and service. Appalachian Places is an important expression of that mission, focused on publishing quality articles, poems, reviews, photos, and other works that provide thought-provoking commentary on the Appalachian region and related mountain places.


The photo accompanying this article is a good illustration of this mission. I took the photo while leading students in our department’s study abroad course on a climb to Arthurs Seat, the imposing hill overlooking the city of Edinburgh, Scotland. In this course we take students across both Scotland and Ireland, exploring the historical and cultural connections and common challenges between those places and Appalachia.


This course is part of our department’s growing emphasis on comparative mountain studies, in which we research the commonalities and issues faced by mountain regions around the world. There is much we can learn from each other, whether it be from places within the Appalachian region, the highlands of Scotland and Ireland, the Himalayas, or the many other mountain ranges across the globe. While most of the content of Appalachian Places will focus on the Appalachian Mountains, we also welcome submissions about other highland places around the globe, when relevant to the Appalachian experience, hence our subtitle: Stories from the Highlands.


The range of stories in this opening issue reflect this broad sweep across highland places, including: Phillip Obermiller and Thomas Wagner write about Appalachia’s boat dwellers, Kevin O’Donnell examines the intersection between computer gaming and highland conservation, Charles Duncan starts a series analyzing James Still’s River of Earth, Mark Rutledge takes a look back at the legacy of Now & Then, we celebrate 20 years of the Appalachian Teaching Project, acclaimed poet Robert Morgan contributes several new poems, and two photo essays visit heritage celebrations in the region.


Appalachian Places would not be possible without our dedicated team: co-editor Rebecca Adkins Fletcher, managing editor Mark Rutledge, poetry editor Jesse Graves, photographic editor Charlie Warden, and editorial assistant Becky Parsons. They have done incredible work to launch this publication.


I invite you to join us on a continuing journey as we climb together in a common pursuit of what we can learn from one another about the places we call home and how we might contribute to a better quality of life for people in Appalachia and on other mountains around the world.



Ron Roach, is Chair and Professor of the Department of Appalachian Studies and Director of the Center of Excellence for Appalachian Studies and Services at East Tennessee State University. He serves as Co-Editor of Appalachian Places.