This paper explores how community might be re-imagined to promote incipient social and economic agendas born increasingly of broad-minded citizen initiatives within the Appalachian region aimed at what is generally understood as “development,” but of a form distinct from the prevailing models of a more industrial age. I would like to ask whether a city like Huntington, West Virginia can emerge as a progressive example of what we might term postindustrial, urban regeneration and perhaps what we might call community healing—specifically through grassroots movement now finding local governmental support in collective attempts to transform this place from one defined primarily by the productive capacity of factories to something much more aligned with what some have referred to as the New Economy and as destination for members of the so-called creative class. This paper contributes to academic and popular discussion of how—throughout a vast archipelago of economically challenged communities known unflatteringly as the Rustbelt—small U.S. cities like Huntington might plan a healthy way forward that promises sustainable, restorative growth in an economic and social landscape shifted by significant structural changes.
Brian A. Hoey is an Associate Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Marshall University. His ethnographic research explores the social, cultural, and personal effects of economic restructuring.