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Hillbilly Stereotypes in Material Objects

Exploring Appalachian Stereotypes Using the Artifact Teaching Collection


This virtual exhibit is based on work by Student Curatorial Associate Brittney Westbrook.  Westbrook selected the artifacts, compiled the information, and photographed the objects. In 2013 Student Curatorial Associate Travis Rigg edited and produced this virtual exhibit. Revisions were made in 2015 Student Curatorial Associate Kathryn Dunn and 2020 by supervising curator Christopher Miller.

LJAC Virtual Exhibits & Artifact Collections

The Appalachian Artifacts Teaching Collection is held by the Loyal Jones Appalachian Center at Berea College. For additional information or to access the collection contact Curator Christopher Miller.  Explore more of our virtual exhibits and collections using the links below.

The Hillbilly Stereotype in Material Culture

One aspect of Appalachian Studies is exploration of the Appalachian stereotype.  Most of the published research has focused on such stereotypes in movies, literature, and cartoons.  However, the stereotype also is found in "the material world."  Each of the artifacts in this exhibit leverages different aspects of the stereotype. 

Scholarship of the Appalachian Hillbilly Stereotype

In recent years, Appalachian Studies scholars have done considerable work with the hillbilly stereotype.  They have exposed some of its roots, developed typography, and delved into the universals of social psychology that underlay stereotyping. The hillbilly stereotype is rooted in the more general rural, "bumpkin," "redneck," or "rube" stereotypes.  These predate  the Appalachian region.  One can also subdivide the hillbilly stereotype into variants such Ozark, Appalachian, and the Western "mountain man."  At times they are distinct but often in media they blend and merge.  Beyond America, there appears to to be a generalized highlander stereotype found in many other places in the world where a mountain subcultures exists in relationship to a more dominant culture.  For example, in Ukraine and Poland, the "Hutsul" group label can function much like "Hillbilly" in America. 

The Appalachian stereotype is also complex with built-in tensions.  It often displays both backwardness AND nostalgia, ignorance AND earthy wisdom, and laziness AND hard work.  Stubbornness is at times a weakness and at other times a strength.

See also our virtual exhibit on hillbilly stereotypes in media.

From the Library Catalogue