Hillbilly: A Cultural History of an American Icon

Paperback | October 7, 2005

byAnthony Harkins

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In this pioneering work of cultural history, historian Anthony Harkins argues that the hillbilly-in his various guises of "briar hopper," "brush ape," "ridge runner," and "white trash"-has been viewed by mainstream Americans simultaneously as a violent degenerate who threatens the modernorder and as a keeper of traditional values of family, home, and physical production, and thus symbolic of a nostalgic past free of the problems of contemporary life. "Hillbilly" signifies both rugged individualism and stubborn backwardness, strong family and kin networks but also inbreeding andbloody feuds. Spanning film, literature, and the entire expanse of American popular culture, from D. W. Griffith to hillbilly music to the Internet, Harkins illustrates how the image of the hillbilly has consistently served as both a marker of social derision and regional pride. He traces thecorresponding changes in representations of the hillbilly from late-nineteenth century America, through the great Depression, the mass migrations of Southern Appalachians in the 1940s and 1950s, the War on Poverty in the mid 1960s, and to the present day. Harkins also argues that images ofhillbillies have played a critical role in the construction of whiteness and modernity in twentieth century America. Richly illustrated with dozens of photographs, drawings, and film and television stills, this unique book stands as a testament to the enduring place of the hillbilly in the Americanimagination.

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In this pioneering work of cultural history, historian Anthony Harkins argues that the hillbilly-in his various guises of "briar hopper," "brush ape," "ridge runner," and "white trash"-has been viewed by mainstream Americans simultaneously as a violent degenerate who threatens the modernorder and as a keeper of traditional values of f...

Anthony Harkins is an Assistant Professor in History at Western Kentucky University.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:336 pages, 5.98 × 9.02 × 1.1 inPublished:October 7, 2005Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195189507

ISBN - 13:9780195189506

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"Distilling truths and untruths about a great American archetype, Hillbilly is insightful and respectful without draining out all the fun. Anthony Harkins writes entertaining yet sophisticated analysis, free of ten-dollar words and other academic moonshine."--Scott A. Sandage, Carnegie MellonUniversity