The Families of Appalachia

On Saturday, I discovered a copy of William A. Haviland’s Cultural Anthropology and a chapter from the book centered on the formation of groups in various cultures. As I was leafing through the pages, the way I often do, I waited for some aspect of the book to catch my attention as I read passages, chapter titles, and photograph captions. That’s when I stumbled upon this photograph (pictured) of a large extended family from rural Kentucky.

Given that extended families in America are often not as large as those in other cultures, this family was used as a comparison to the large families found among the Tanala of Madagascar and the Zuni Pueblo Indians of New Mexico. What struck me most was the posture and varied facial expressions of the men, women, and children depicted in this image. Some, like the young girl with her arms crossed and wearing a white blouse, exude attitude. Others, like the young man on the far right pressed against the wooden beam, seem pensive, almost worried. The patriarch and matriarch (center), however, loom over the family like a hardened version of Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” painting — providing an unvarnished view of family life in the American hinterlands.

(Photograph: Uncredited; click to enlarge. Caption: Extended families are still found in some parts of rural North America. All the members of this Kentucky family are descended from the couple at the back of the photo.)