Mode of Program Participation

Academic Scholarship

Participation Type


Session Title

Ruralism and The Appalachian Other

Session Abstract or Summary

Appalachia owes much of its cultural salience in the American imagination today to the color writers in the late 19th century, who breathed life into Appalachia as a discernable and distinct region. As resource extraction expanded into the region at unprecedented rates, Color writers vividly and imaginatively described Appalachia and its people for readers. They articulated an all-together different land filled with all together different, less cultured people and were largely responsible for laying the groundwork for the construction of the now well-known Appalachian hillbilly. Today, and for the past 100 years plus, the distinction of Appalachia as other remains strong, serving as a widely accepted foil for American middle class ideals. This imagery saturates orientations to and understandings of the region, its people, blending with similar articulations of the South and of the broader rugged working class. None of this is of course news to Appalachian studies scholars and students, but it is a reality student populations are coming to understand and navigate with increased urgency as a new wave of Appalachian others permeates pop culture media. This paper panel brings together four undergraduate and postgraduate who are presently researching and exploring the othering of Appalachian populations through a variety of frames. These students are all informed by experiences of traveling and competing in intercollegiate debate tournaments under the banner of Appalachian State University, acutely aware that being Appalachian and representing a university named for the region tints the way they are seen in and out of competition.

Presentation #1 Title

Socializing Class: Some Opening Comments on Appalachia, Identity, and The Other

Presentation #1 Abstract or Summary

The panel will begin with some brief comments about the creation and maintenance of Appalachia as a descender and stratified population, emphasizing the importance of undergraduates understanding and struggling with regional identity. These comments will be short and simply designed to frame the discussion of the student presenters.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #1

Dr. Richards is an Assistant Professor at Appalachian State University in the Department of Communication. His research focuses on historical articulations of class in America and how it affects the contemporary political climate in Appalachia. His most recent publication appears in Communication, Culture, and Critique.

Presentation #2 Abstract or Summary

Ruralism studies the ways in which different spaces affect the rural identity. Public conceptions of American identity exclude rural bodies and through this exclusion create a dissonant rural identity which creates a location for racism, stupidity, and intellectual stagnation. The media portrays these traits as the rural identity which then affects all spaces that body inhabits and participates in. As Appalachian State University boasts it’s connection with Appalachia, it inextricably links its students to public popular notions of the rural identity. Thus, the Appalachian State Debate team carries with it all the preconceived notions about the rural identity each time we enter a tournament. In the debate community, we witnessed the effects of these public conceptions in action. Theses Appalachian identities are automatically assigned to students attached to the title, whether it applies or not. Merely attending the university does not make you “Appalachian”. Born and raised in Fayetteville, North Carolina, I do not claim Appalachian identity, yet in various academic communities, I am assigned this identity because of my simple association with the name Appalachian.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #2

Mackenzie Bruckner is in her senior year of working towards a double major in Communication studies and Gender, Women’s and Sexuality studies at Appalachian State University. Her research interests include critical engagement with how bodies participate in discursive spaces and ruralism in the Appalachian region. Future plans include attending graduate school for rhetoric and gender, women’s and sexuality studies. Mackenzie can be reached at

Presentation #3 Abstract or Summary

Historically race and Appalachia have had a contentious and often hidden relationship. Myths of racial purity and long-standing stereotypes of Appalachia as racist have tainted popular perceptions of the region and its people. Building on existing scholarship that has opened the door over recent decades and highlighted the experience of Appalachians of color, I continue the historical interrogation of the construction of myths that have portrayed the region and its people as backwards. The impacts of these cultural and regional misrepresentations are not just unique to popular culture and American society writ large. Race and Appalachia have also proven to have a contentious relationship within the debate community. I will discuss the way that the two have interacted within the debate community as a microcosm of what is evident in broader American society.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #3

Korick Sisomphone recently obtained his Bachelor of Science in History with a concentration in Rhetoric from Appalachian State University. He is currently the Assistant Debate Coach of the Appalachian State University Debate Team. His research interests include critical race theory, the history of the Appalachian region, and contemporary political history. His future plans are to pursue a doctorate in Communication, researching critical mixed race theory, the intersection of Appalachian and Asian identities, and the socio-political effects of public discourse. Korick can be contacted at

Presentation #4 Abstract or Summary

Analyzing linguistic patterns in Appalachia can show that the dialects associated with these mountains hold deep cultural implications. These dialects are more than the caricatures of “hillbillies.” The idea that the people of Appalachia are reduced to their manner of speaking is detrimental to the entirety of the history that these mountain and their people have endured. The connotation of the southern and central Appalachian region is dependent upon the homogenization of southern dialects which are popularly associated with lesser education and leading a simple life. As a student of Appalachian State University, I regularly interact with the local population. To reduce this population to homogenized characteristics based upon their accent ignores the richness of Appalachian culture which extends well beyond the way they pronounce words. Assigning Appalachian identity as a product of their accents is dangerous to the perception because not only are there different regions of Appalachia, but each with their own dialect and rich history. The geographical implications of this are pertinent to this denunciation because of the perceived identity of the Appalachian region. This affects me as a student and a debater because although I was not born in the Appalachian region, my attending of this school has pinned me with the identity of the Appalachians, which follows the identity of the dialectal implications of simple and slow lifestyles. The University does not perpetuate these stereotypes of the dialect but because of the mass characterization of this region as only the dialect, the school is inevitably lumped into the perception of the dialect because of the lumping of the dialect of the region.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #4

Geneva Shepherd is a Junior at Appalachian State University majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on geography and communication and minor in Spanish. She is interested in the overarching trends of interacting cultures and the influence media plays on them. After school she wants to conduct field research in South America to search for patterns of cultural movement and language. Geneva can be reached at

Presentation #5 Abstract or Summary

Ruralism and Identity in Appalachia Memetic Concepts of Appalachian Identity. Due to the rising importance and prevalence of memes as a vessel for communicating complex cultural and political ideas, it’s become essential to analyze memetics for their often forgotten or concealed identity assumptions. As an easily accessible method of communication, memes are developed both as internal dialogues by communities, and as otherizing external dialogues by different communities; by examining both sides of that discourse, I want to analyze the transformation of early concepts of Appalachian identity into their modern expression – how has the image of the Appalachian Other become a meme in the modern era? How have these identity expressions developed as part of the internal Appalachian dialogue? By using rhetorical and critical analysis methods alongside ethnographic methods literature on visual presentation, I will interrogate visual memes to uncover the overall memetic concepts and the cultural identity concepts they are a part of assuming and transmitting.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #5

Trevor Moody is a sophomore at Appalachian State University majoring in Journalism. His interests are policy and politics, and he plans on researching and writing on domestic policy and the intersectionality of policy and culture. After completing undergrad he plans on entering the workforce or attending graduate school. Trevor can be reached at

Presentation #6 Abstract or Summary

Note: Due to some health issues Megan was unable to write an abstract. She is still hoping to attend the conference and speak on this panel so I just wanted to make note that should this panel be accepted we may have another student presenter that - if allowed - we would like to add. We appreciate your patience and consideration on this matter.

At-A-Glance Bio- Presenter #6

Megan Richardson is a junior Communication Studies major at Appalachian State University. Her interests focus on discourse surrounding chronic illness within the medical community and how this impacts medical accessibility for persons with chronic illness. After completing her undergraduate degree, she wants to further her research and study in graduate school and work to increase awareness and facilitate change within the medical community concerning chronic illness and accessibility. Megan can be reached at

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Socializing Class: Some Opening Comments on Appalachia, Identity, and The Other

The panel will begin with some brief comments about the creation and maintenance of Appalachia as a descender and stratified population, emphasizing the importance of undergraduates understanding and struggling with regional identity. These comments will be short and simply designed to frame the discussion of the student presenters.