Research

cultural study of science and technology; culture, environment, and political economy

Basketball hoop with Mountaineer and Philip Sporn in the background

My dissertation investigates the relationships between “clean coal” discourses, the political economy of climate change, and the material practices of coal pollution mitigation. I am particularly interested in how these relationships appear from the standpoint of a community that generates electricity from coal, transports coal via barge and rail, and – in the past – mined coal. My methods include systematic content analysis of historical newspapers, interviews with community residents and public figures, and an interpretive analysis of public records that document the relationship of “clean coal” to climate governance.


Sunset at Kyger Creek plant

My publications and conference presentations have, in recent years, focused on cultural, political, and economic aspects of the coal industry in Central Appalachia.

“Response to Caroline West’s ‘From Company Town to Post-Industrial: Inquiry on the Redistribution of Space and Capital with a Universal Basic Income'” Lateral 8.1 (2019).
In this response, I critically evaluate the Universal Basic Income as a strategy for achieving a “just transition” in Appalachia. In doing so, I raise questions about more local and more structural ways of thinking about solidarity.

“The politics of space in Joe Sacco’s Representations of the Appalachian Coalfields” in The Comics of Joe Sacco, edited by Daniel Worden (2015).
Through close readings of Joe Sacco’s illustrations of landscapes transformed by the coal industry and his portraits of those who live within these landscape, I argue that his realist approach enables him to make the impacts of consuming coal powered electricity visible to distant readers while drawing attention to the problems of representation involved with such a project. In doing so, I develop an account of the kinds solidarity that nonfiction comics can encourage.

Links to other related work forthcoming


My master’s thesis (2011) concerned the appropriation and use of the Frankenstein narrative across different media. While many media studies scholars at the time, especially those studying digital culture, tended to describe the relationships between new media artifacts and their filmic and print counterparts in terms that promote what is “new” about these media forms, my argument attended to the specificity of different media forms and to how older media forms anticipate and enter into conversation with new media. Though pretty embarrassing, it is available in the Virginia Tech Electronic Theses