Year of Publication

2009

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Dissertation

College

Arts and Sciences

Department

Anthropology

First Advisor

Dr. Mary K. Anglin

Abstract

This study examines the use of regional cultural icons, like hillbillies, nineteenth century pioneer caricatures, and rural/wilderness landscapes, in paintings from an Appalachian tourist center. These icons, produced by the public media’s portrayal of the Appalachian region over several generations, contribute to a sense of cultural difference associated with people of Appalachia. The research question driving this project is: would cultural distinctiveness exist if cultural stereotypes were not a part of the tourist center’s local economics, politics, and social life? Building on ideas from consumption studies, this project explores consumption practices of artists and tourists as they interact with icons in art galleries and other commercial spaces located in a popular vacation destination. Artists and tourists both play out the role of consumer because they choose and make use of icons. This project also draws on ethnographies from tourism and tourist art and from theories of ritual and performance studies.

Data gathered from formal interviews, gallery surveys, content analysis of paintings, observations, and participant-observation is analyzed to describe the kinds of images consumed in an Appalachian tourist art market, as well as the marketing techniques employed by business owners to facilitate the tourist’s consumption of images, the performative qualities of consumer behavior and gallery spaces, the various meanings signified by images to consumers, and the structural ways individuals are taught to associate certain meanings with images. This project deconstructs notions of cultural distinctiveness associated with the Appalachian region, while showing some cultural icons to be personally important to artists and tourists. Showing how the tourism industry affects cultural perceptions of marginalized groups, this research also reveals the ways dominant cultural assumptions, like racial and class categories as well as experiences with the past, are communicated via art images. Recounting artists’ stories of working within a tourism context enables this research to describe how individuals and communities employ sales strategies to minimize their perceptions of economic risks. This project concludes that the perpetual use of stereotypes is motivated by the need for a tourist setting to seem different and by the values stereotypes bear for consumers’ personal identities and preferences.

Included in

Anthropology Commons

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