The Filson Institute Public Conference for Spring, 2013 was presented last week May 16-17. As the title suggests, "The Roots of Feuding: How Economics, Culture, Political Power and Media Created an Atmosphere of Feuding in Appalachia" explored the roots of feud violence, the origins of questionable stereotypes associated with the region, and considers how outside sources contributed to the atmosphere of violence in Appalachia.
Below is the keynote lecture podcast given May 16, 2013 by Dr. Altina Waller, Professor Emerita, University of Connecticut. Dr. Waller's - "The Social Origins of Appalachian Feuding"- notes the recent and unexpectedly popular TV miniseries on the Hatfield McCoy feud has once again focused American's attention on the seemingly incomprehensible and peculiar culture of Appalachian mountaineers. Although the film posited old answers to the question of "why" such as habits of violence form the Civil War, absence of civilizing influences like schools and churches, and a Scotch Irish culture of violence and drunkenness, the main focus of the film was the details of shootings, semi-military battles and the Romeo and Juliet love story. However, if we really want to understand this outbreak of violent conflicts in the southern Appalachians, we need to examine the social, economic and demographic changes taking place in the mountains during the post-war era.
Altina Waller is Professor Emerita at the University of Connecticut. She received her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts and has taught at West Virginia University, Rhodes College, the State University of New York at Plattsburgh and the University of Connecticut. Her book, Feud: Hatfields, McCoys and Social Change in Appalachia, 1860-1900, was an outgrowth of a teaching project at West Virginia University.