Graduation Year

2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Humanities and Cultural Studies

Major Professor

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Benjamin Goldberg, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Brook Sadler, Ph.D.

Keywords

American Studies, Appalachia, Identity, Moonshine, Postcolonialism, Tourism

Abstract

For little over a century, the American region of Appalachia was an internal mineral colony of the United States. This internal colonization produced innumerable negative environmental and economic effects, as well as – most insidious of all – the constructed stereotype of the Hillbilly that even in the Twenty-First Century refuses to die. Yet part and parcel of that same stereotype is something found all over Appalachia, representing a freedom, an identity, and an heritage so long denied to Appalachia and the Appalachian people on its own terms: moonshine, the colorless, unaged corn whiskey long produced both in Appalachia and its Celtic cultural antecedents in Europe.

I use the pioneering work of Ronald D. Eller and Helen Matthews Lewis for the much-needed re-identification of Appalachia from the American Civil War onward to the 1960s as an internal mineral colony, the theoretical framework laid out by Étienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein's joint theories on core-periphery relations, and some theories on the latter's reversal by the tourism industry in the work of Dean MacCannell. However, with them, I go further: in the contemporary day and age, most if not all of the challenges Appalachia presently faces is due to it falling away from colonization and having entered into a postcolonial state, and that only a newfound rootedness in the facets of traditional culture can assuage, and perhaps reverse it.

I draw upon the cultural, social, and economic history of the home distilling of corn liquor – moonshine and moonshining. I show that, although found outside of the Appalachian region, moonshining should be best understood to be most closely associated with Appalachia and the Appalachian people. Further, I deconstruct, at least partially, the Hillbilly stereotype and show that part of its makeup – the making and drinking of moonshine – should instead be understood as a component of Appalachian culture and heritage.

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