Meredith McCarroll

Unwhite: Appalachia, Race and Film

Appalachia resides in the American imagination at the intersections of race and class in a very particular way, in the tension between deep historic investments in seeing the region as “pure white stock” and as impoverished and backward. Meredith McCarroll’s Unwhite analyzes the fraught location of Appalachians within the southern and American imaginaries, building on studies of race in literary and cinematic characterizations of the American South. Not only do we know what “rednecks” and “white trash” are, McCarroll argues, we rely on the continued use of such categories in fashioning our broader sense of self and other. Further, we continue to depend upon the existence of the region of Appalachia as a cultural construct. As a consequence, Appalachia has long been represented in the collective cultural history as the lowest, the poorest, the most ignorant, and the most laughable community. McCarroll complicates this understanding by asserting that white privilege remains intact while Appalachia is othered through reliance on recognizable nonwhite cinematic stereotypes.
Meredith McCarroll
Meredith McCarroll is Director of Writing and Rhetoric at Bowdoin College, where she teaches courses in composition, rhetoric, Southern and American literature, and film. McCarroll earned her PhD in English at University of Tennessee. Her work has appeared in Bitter Southerner, Avidly, Southern Cultures and The Guardian. McCarroll is the author of Unwhite: Appalachia, Race, and Film (University of Georgia Press), which asserts the racial liminality of the Appalachian figure in Hollywood film, and offers a rereading of Appalachian film through the lens of Critical Race Theory and Whiteness Studies. Along with Anthony Harkins, McCarroll edited Appalachian Reckoning: A Region Responds to Hillbilly Elegy (West Virginia University Press), which complicates a monolithic portrayal of the region with scholarship, narrative essays, poetry and photography.

Other Books by this Author

With hundreds of thousands of copies sold, a Ron Howard movie in the works, and the rise of its author as a media personality, J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis has defined Appalachia for much of the nation. What about Hillbilly Elegy accounts for this explosion of interest during this period of political turmoil? Why have its ideas raised so much controversy? And how can debates about the book catalyze new, more inclusive political agendas for the region’s future? Appalachian Reckoning is a retort, at turns rigorous, critical, angry, and hopeful, to the long shadow Hillbilly Elegy has cast over the region and its imagining. Read more…

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