The Taming of Mothman: Cute-ification and Marketization of Cultural Forms in Appalachia

Sarah Craycraft (Indiana University Bloomington) and Jordan Lovejoy (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

This paper explores the relationship between boundary maintenance and the marketization of Appalachian cultural forms. We examine how traditional expressive culture is made cute and commodified to benefit individual brands through neoliberal market strategies. Although contemporary scholars note Appalachia as a fluid space, the “cultural taming” and heritagization of selected objects, symbols, and speech gestures toward a familiar romantic regionalism, a boundedness communicating narrow ideas of Appalachia that can lead to symbolic “uprooting” and appropriation. We argue this neoliberal function of folklore serves to index oneself as a branded in-group member whose legitimation rests on using and spreading symbolic shibboleths.

Part of 01-04 Deploying “Grassroots Authenticity”: “Everyday Folk” As Moral Index and Boundary Mechanism, Thursday, November 02, 8:30 am–10:00 am