This article introduces disability studies in Appalachia and argues that disability is an undertheorized area in Appalachian studies. To show the overlap and relevance of these two fields, I argue that ideas of disability have been central in the social construction of Appalachia. Associations with disability, whether ascribed to mountaineers or to the entire region, have enabled a mode of intervention characterized by rehabilitation and development, which operate as normalizing strategies. While being mindful of the embodied harm and the challenges of celebrating disability identity in disenfranchised regions, I trace a “cripistemology” of the region from a critical disability studies perspective. In recognizing the histories of disability in Appalachia, I suggest what I term a “speculative present” as a way to consider disability futures outside of the neoliberal demand for progress.

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