Hillbilly by Anthony Harkins
A Cultural History of an American Icon

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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 modern order 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 and bloody 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 the corresponding 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 of hillbillies 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 American imagination.

About Anthony Harkins

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Anthony Harkins is an Assistant Professor in History at Western Kentucky University.
Published November 20, 2003 by Oxford University Press, USA. 336 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences. Non-fiction

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But readers who wish to understand how this label reflected the actual conditions of Southern mountain folk, or how the media decided which meaning to assign to " 'hillbilly" at which point in time—or indeed, how this label's history contrasted with the history of other pejorative characterizatio...

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Project MUSE

The complexities of the hillbilly are most evident in Harkins's discussion of country music, which was widely known as "hillbilly music" from the 1920s through the 1950s.

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