Cultural historians have focused considerable attention in recent years
on the construction of whiteness as a key to ascribing social and
economic status in American society over time. Now Anthony Harkins
extends the discussion of the politics of racial identity to a
long-disparaged group within, but somehow not of, the dominant white
culture—the hillbilly. A mythic caricature representing backwardness
and degeneracy, the hillbilly image offered one of the most persistent
and pervasive representations of American otherness in the twentieth
century. Harkins traces the icon from its origins in the nineteenth
century to its recent manifestations in movies and television, but he
concentrates his analysis on the rise of hillbilly stereotypes in the
popular culture of the 1930s and 1940s, especially in the
commercialization of country music and in graphic cartoon images such
as Snuffy Smith and Li'l Abner.
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