Something in These Hills

The Culture of Family Land in Southern Appalachia

By John M. Coggeshall

238 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 16 halftones

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-7025-6
    Published: October 2022
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-7024-9
    Published: October 2022
  • E-book EPUB ISBN: 978-1-4696-7026-3
    Published: September 2022
  • E-book PDF ISBN: 979-8-8908-6217-4
    Published: September 2022

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Awards & distinctions

Finalist, 2022 Weatherford Award for Nonfiction, Berea College and Appalachian Studies Association

What is the "something in these hills" that ties mountain families to family land in the southern Appalachians? This ethnographic examination challenges contemporary theory and explores two interrelated themes: the duality of the southern Appalachians as both a menacing and majestic landscape and the emotional relationship to family land characteristic of long-term residents of these mountains. To most outsiders, the area conjures images of a beautiful yet dangerous place, typified by the movie Deliverance. To long-term residents, these mountains have a fundamental emotional hold so powerful that many mourn the sale or loss of family land as if it were a deceased relative. How can the same geographical space be both? Using a carefully crafted cultural lens, John M. Coggeshall explains how family land anthropomorphizes, metaphorically becoming another member of kin groups. He establishes that this emotional sense of place existed prior to recent land losses, contrary to some contemporary scholars. Utilizing the voices and perspectives of long-term residents, the book provides readers with a more fundamental understanding of the "something in these hills" that holds people in place.

About the Author

John M. Coggeshall is professor of anthropology at Clemson University and author of Liberia, South Carolina: An African American Appalachian Community.
For more information about John M. Coggeshall, visit the Author Page.


“This is a well-written, well-documented study of locals’ feelings about and attitudes toward family land and how it is often considered family itself, both physically and metaphorically. . . . The author’s mastery of the relevant literature in Appalachian studies and anthropology is impressive as is his ability to situate his ethnography within these fields, making this a significant contribution to both disciplines.”—CHOICE

“Well-organized, well-researched, and thoughtfully engaging. Academics specializing in the field will find the conceptual distinction between residents and inhabitants quite useful for further research and the personification of land thesis theoretically provocative. Those new to Appalachian studies will find the book a nice introduction to the field and the region. In sum, Something in These Hills is a book that has something for everyone who has an interest in Appalachia and related issues.”—Contemporary Sociology

“Coggeshall build[s] on the established ethnographic literature with original interview data, which not only confirms earlier findings but also adds detail and subtlety. . . . [A] valuable addition to the ethnographic literature on southern Appalachia.”—American Ethnologist

"A stunning book on the beauty and danger of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I don’t know of another book that does what Something in These Hills has done: examine the cultural landscape of the Southern Appalachians through the lens of liminality, contestation, and transition."—Susan E. Keefe, Appalachian State University

"Something in These Hills is a laudable exploration of the culture and history of the southern Appalachians. Coggeshall unpacks the complicated connections between people and place that, as he often hears from his research participants, are hard to put into words; he provides an expository, story-filled approach to understanding sense of place."—Hope Amason, director, Museum of Culture and Environment, Central Washington University