Communication Studies Graduate Student on Memorialization, Quilting, and Activism
Alex Davenport, a PhD student in the department of Communication Studies, is using his Dissertation Research Assistantship to weave together a tale of activism, environmentalism, the Appalachian geography, and memorialization. Davenport has conducted his research alongside the environmental activists at Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW), a group dedicated to protesting the expansion of mountaintop removal mining across the Appalachian region. His research explores the ways that activist communities memorialize those who have passed away. He’s specifically interested in the memorialization of Judy Bonds. Bonds, the director of CRMW, passed away in 2011, and Davenport conducts his research in concert with CRMW to memorialize her activist work.
Davenport’s research further explores the connection between memorializing and material production through his process of creating a memorial quilt in memory of Bonds. Quilting has a long tradition within Appalachian families, and in protest movements throughout United States history. Davenport’s memorial quilt is constructed through quilt squares fabricated by those who also knew and worked with Bonds, and as such, brings together a multitude of styles, textures, and memories. Davenport’s research was originally scheduled to be on display at SIU Carbondale in late April as a part of his show, Threading: A Vibrant Installation of Travel and Memorial, debuting in the Marion Kleinau Theatre. Theatre staff is currently exploring other options for making the quilt—and the show—available to the public.