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Proving Ground: Expertise and Appalachian Landscapes by Edward Slavishak

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This book takes a look at our region from a refreshingly new perspective. It demonstrates how professionals seeking to gain national reputations in their fields made use of our region as a field in which to establish their professional gravitas. It follows four individuals: J. Horace McFarland (1859-1948) of Harrisburg gained a reputation as a preservationist, Benton MacKaye (1879-1975) worked as a regional planner for the TVA and the REA and is best known as an advocate for the Appalachian Trail, Marion Pearsall (1923-1984) worked as a medical anthropologist at the University of Kentucky and focused her work on Leslie County, one of Kentucky’s most isolated mountain counties, William Gedney (1932-1989) was an art photographer from New York, whose pictures of the Eastern Kentucky coalfields solidified his career. These chapters are complemented by a chapter on the Smoky Mountains that highlights the impact of advocacy for the National Park there on the careers of several individuals. “An important contribution to Appalachian Studies, as well as a valuable work of intellectual history, Proving Ground has a novel and provocative vision.” – T. R. C. Hutton. “Refreshingly innovative and gracefully written, this cutting-edge book works at the intersection of environmental and cultural studies in valuable ways I have seen few other authors attempt.” Kathryn Newfont. The author, Edward Slavishak, teaches history at Susquehanna University.

Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2018. 212 pages with an Index, Bibliography, Notes, and photos. Hardback with pictorial cover