J. D. Vance Dissed at Appalachian Studies Association

, Malcolm A. Kline, 2 Comments

The author of Hillbilly Elegy, the New York Times bestseller about growing up in Appalachia, was disrupted in an appearance at an Appalachian Studies Association (ASA) conference.

“This session took place during the final day of the 2018 Appalachian Studies Association conference,” according to a statement issued by the Young Appalachian Leaders and Learners (Y’ALL). “Protests against Vance’s presence began as the convener of the roundtable was introducing Vance, encouraging the audience to save questions about Hillbilly Elegy for after the session, attempting to keep the roundtable focused on the subject of opioids.”

“Members of the audience began to speak out against Vance being given a platform to speak at the conference, and the convener responded by declaring that, as academics, we should all be willing to listen and critically engage in discussion with anyone regardless of their beliefs. As Vance began to deliver his speech, a number of audience members stood up, turned their chairs around, and protested in silence with their backs turned to Vance until he concluded his remarks. Vocal protests resumed during the question and answer portion of the roundtable with a group of activists singing ‘Which Side Are You On?’ As Vance took questions, a handful of people stood with their backs turned to Vance, put their heads down, or shouted comments in rebuttal to Vance’s assertions. The singing was met with a number of calls to stop, to ‘shush.’ and to respect Vance and others in attendance.”

After that recap, the statement is less than clear and Y’ALL signatories appear to side with the demonstrators in their incivility towards an invited speaker. They specifically state, “First, and perhaps the most troubling concern Y’ALL has with the events of this roundtable, is the silencing of young activists in the room.”

The reasons for the disruption remain murky, at this point in time, as Hillary would say. Politically, by the way, Vance is a bit of a wild card.

A self-described venture capitalist Vance is a Republican who claims he did not vote for Trump but appears to be less than enamored of the president’s predecessor. “He talks in a way that a professor talks, he talks in a way that you sort of aspire to talk if you’re a young law student,” Vance said of President Obama in an interview in The Guardian. “Trump talks like a guy at a bar in West Virginia.”

“Trump talks like my dad sitting around the dinner table.”