Hillbilly : A Cultural History of an American Icon

3.92 (53 ratings by Goodreads)
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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.show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 336 pages
  • 154.9 x 228.6 x 20.3mm | 453.6g
  • Oxford University Press Inc
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • numerous halftones
  • 0195189507
  • 9780195189506
  • 2,059,996

Review quote

"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 Mellon University "Harkins' Hillbilly is an intriguing and wide-ranging study of a strangely enduring American type, one both loved and despised but still nationally (if not internationally) recognized. From Snuffy Smith and Li'l Abner to The Real McCoys and the Clampett clan, Harkins discusses how the hillbilly image itself has remained relatively unchanged, while its meaning has evolved in response to broader social, economic, and cultural transformations in American society."-Erika Doss, University of Colorado "This is an impressively researched and meticulously documented study of one of the pervasive terms in American popular culture, 'hillbilly,' a concept that has both reflected and shaped public views of southern white working people. Students in my field of research, Southern Folk Music, will obviously profit from this beautifully written work, but anyone intrigued by the ways in which stereotypes have clouded our perceptions will want to read this book."-Bill C. Malone, author of Country Music, U.S.A. "Tony Harkins has gone deeper, understood a wider range of pop-culture materials, and analyzed more insightfully the twentieth-century image of the American 'hillbilly' than any other scholar in this or the previous century. My hat's not only off to him. It's way up in the air!"- Jerry Williamson, author of Hillbillyland "Harkin's research is truly impressive, and his writing could not be clearer....a significant, highly accessible book of considerable value to scholars and advanced students."-History "a sophisticated melange of image and reality regarding southern white culture"- History of Education Quarterlyshow more

About Anthony Harkins

Anthony Harkins is an Assistant Professor in History at Western Kentucky University.show more

Rating details

53 ratings
3.92 out of 5 stars
5 30% (16)
4 40% (21)
3 23% (12)
2 8% (4)
1 0% (0)
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