Beyond wizzards and goat glands : creating Appalachian folk medicine and Appalachianness in western North Carolina in the twentieth century

WCU Author/Contributor (non-WCU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Emily Baker (Creator)
Western Carolina University (WCU )
Web Site:
Rob Ferguson

Abstract: This study examines the role folk medicine has played in the creation of Appalachia. By investigating folk medicine and folk healing in Jackson County, North Carolina, it becomes evident that different periods of history have rendered different constructions of the mountaineer in western North Carolina and southern Appalachia as a whole. Although the tradition of folk healing is not unique to southern Appalachia, over time it has become a valuable component of Appalachian culture. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries color writers recorded medicinal practices of stagnant people frozen in a time that preceded industrialization and modernity in America. Beginning in the 1920s, and through the 1960s, Appalachian residents became hearty, self-sufficient people revered by a society dramatically altered by the effects of the Great Depression. The maintenance of folk healing supported this, but eventually the glorified image of a resourceful group of people gave way to an image of people resigned to a culture of poverty in the 1960s. However, following the tumultuous socio-political climate of the 1960s, participants in the back-to-the-land movement revered and revived Appalachian traditions like folk healing in the last few decades of the twentieth century. Folk healing remained an important symbol of Appalachian identity into the twentieth-first century, as can be seen in reality television and other contemporary media. Drawing parallels between the representations of Appalachianness and medicinal practices in Jackson County and western North Carolina throughout the twentieth century reflects a similar understanding of Appalachianness and Appalachian traditions as removed from a broader American society. However, looking at the perceptions of healing practices in different eras also displays an American society constantly in flux.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2015
Appalachia, folk healing, folklore, Jackson County, medicine, North Carolina
Traditional medicine -- North Carolina -- Jackson County -- History -- 20th century
Appalachians (People) -- North Carolina -- Jackson County -- Ethnic identity
Jackson County (N.C.) -- History -- 20th century
Place (Philosophy)

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