Spiritual & Pastoral Care Home Advance
Center for Cultural Diversity Supervised Ministry
Experience Program
Volunteer Chaplain Association Spiritual Advisory Group

Appalachian Cultural Landscape

Another way to talk about “Where is Appalachia” is to bring the idea of “cultural landscape” into the dialogue.   “Cultural landscape” lacks the specificity of an ethnic identity, but helps outline society’s understanding of a particular people. The “cultural landscape” for Appalachia coalesced first in a set of negative stereotypes which are now being challenged by native Appalachians and academics (McCauley, 1995, p. 3).   In our CPE program, we confront and “debunk” the common cultural stereotypes and look at the positive values and characteristics of Appalachians.

The distinction between living geographically in the Appalachia region and living in the “cultural landscape” of Appalachia is an important one.  When I was in the process of becoming a CPE Supervisor, I found myself struggling to put it all together, a common experience in this formative process.  To help myself move forward I contracted for consultation. As I was sharing my history, my consultant observed, “You know I’ve always thought you were a regular white guy, but you are not.  You are an Appalachian.”   I knew, of course, that I had grown up in the Appalachian area of northeastern Kentucky, but until that supervisory intervention, it had never occurred to me that there was any specific “cultural landscape” to which I needed to attend.  I didn’t identify with the negative stereotypes, but, for the first time, I saw I needed to integrate the positive values of my family’s cultural heritage.    

However the region is defined, Mountain States Health Alliance serves the people who live in the “heartland” of the Appalachian culture and geography.  Our patients, families and team members are from a rich culture and our CPE program explores the uniqueness of healthcare in this “place” and with this “people.”


Appalachian Regional Commission.  (2013). Home Page Definition, Retrieved June 3,
     2013 from: http://wwe.arc.gov.
Campbell, J.C. (1969/1921). The southern highlander & his homeland.  Lexington:  the     University of Kentucky Press, (1969 edition).
Crissman, J.K. (1994). Death and dying in central Appalachia:  Changing attitudes and     practices.  Chicago:  University of Illinois Press.
Jones, L. (1999).  Faith and meaning in the southern uplands. Chicago:  University of
     Illinois Press.
McCauley, D.V. (1995).  Appalachian mountain religion:  a history.  Chicago:
      University of Illinois Press.