The Ruined Anthracite

Historical Trauma in Coal-Mining Communities
Author: Paul A. Shackel
What the fate of northern Appalachia tells us about capitalism, violence, and America
Cloth – $110
Paper – $30
eBook – $19.95
Publication Date
Paperback: 08/01/2023
Cloth: 08/01/2023
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About the Book

Once a busy if impoverished center for the anthracite coal industry, northeastern Pennsylvania exists today as a region suffering inexorable decline--racked by economic hardship and rampant opioid abuse, abandoned by young people, and steeped in xenophobic fear. Paul A. Shackel merges analysis with oral history to document the devastating effects of a lifetime of structural violence on the people who have stayed behind. Heroic stories of workers facing the dangers of underground mining stand beside accounts of people living their lives in a toxic environment and battling deprivation and starvation by foraging, bartering, and relying on the good will of neighbors. As Shackel reveals the effects of these long-term traumas, he sheds light on people’s poor health and lack of well-being. The result is a valuable on-the-ground perspective that expands our understanding of the social fracturing, economic decay, and anger afflicting many communities across the United States.

Insightful and dramatic, The Ruined Anthracite combines archaeology, documentary research, and oral history to render the ongoing human cost of environmental devastation and unchecked capitalism.

About the Author

Paul A. Shackel is a professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Maryland, College Park. His books include Remembering Lattimer: Labor, Migration, and Race in Pennsylvania Anthracite Country.

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“This book makes a significant contribution to the field of labor history, industrial archeology, and place-based history. Shackel unpacks the nuances of working-class labor, culture, and society while also addressing larger issues of how environmental devastation and unchecked capitalism have left long-lasting, if not irrevocable, scars on the landscape and the generations of people who have lived here. This is an outstanding resource for labor historians, labor archeologists, and anyone interested in a deep dive into the past and present of an American working-class community.”--Rachel Clare Donaldson, author of “I Hear America Singing”: Folk Music and National Identity