Abstract

This expositional article offers the term “pagan” through which to imagine the future of queer Appalachia. Meaning “person of the place” and eventually “of the country,” “heathen,” or “hick,” “pagan” provides a framework that resists national narratives about Appalachia and defies those cisheteropatriarchal narratives from within our region. Albeit only a beginning and incomplete, this article provides a lexical survey of pagan-worlding, a queer neologism that I coin here as a creative, enacted performance of place-based vernation that resists anthropocentrism. I write on four axioms of pagan-worlding and their implications for a queer Appalachia: storytelling modalities as worldmaking, land-based ontologies and their connection to identity, immanent sacrality in lieu of salvational transcendence, and non-human and human inter-reliance. I suggest that the future of Appalachia requires a multiplicitous understanding of the world around us, one that sees non-human actors as critical players and demands that we queer how we relate to the land. I propose that a pagan future is a queer one because it speculates that non-humans have intimate, queer bonds with Appalachians, and we must rethink and see these relations as necessary for the future of Appalachia.

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