Work and Faith in the Kentucky Coal Fields

Work and Faith in the Kentucky Coal Fields

Subject to Dust
Callahan, Richard J.
Distribution: World
Publication date: 11/20/2008
Format: Hardback 11 b&w photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-35237-8
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Exploring themes of work and labor in everyday life, Richard J. Callahan, Jr., offers a history of how coal miners and their families lived their religion in eastern Kentucky's coal fields during the early 20th century. Callahan follows coal miners and their families from subsistence farming to industrial coal mining as they draw upon religious idioms to negotiate changing patterns of life and work. He traces innovation and continuity in religious expression that emerged from the specific experiences of coal mining, including the spaces and social structures of coal towns, the working bodies of miners, the anxieties of their families, and the struggle toward organized labor. Building on oral histories, folklore, folksongs, and vernacular forms of spirituality, this rich and engaging narrative recovers a social history of ordinary working people through religion.

Author Bio

Richard J. Callahan, Jr., is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Missouri–Columbia.


A strong contribution to our understanding of Appalachian religions and Appalachian lives.Callahan's book on the Jesus—haunted Appalachian coal country restores the hard work men and women do every day as a necessary subject for U.S. religious historians. This book tells the important, rich, and compelling story of how the miners and their families engaged the harsh realities of their world.

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Table of Contents


1. Appalachian Mountain Religion
2. Patterns of Life and Work
3. Coal Town Life
4. "It's About as Dangerous a Thing as Exists"
5. Power in the Blood
6. Suffering and Redemption