Publication Date

April 2016

Advisor(s)

Jonathan Cutler

Major

Sociology

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

The purpose of this thesis is to explore a middle class discourse about so-called white trash. Within this discourse, white trash serves as a marker that is critical in distinguishing between whites that conform to social norms and whites that may not. Middle class whites are particularly concerned that white trash may deviate from mainstream values, which can be divided into six social domains: gender, sex, family, education, work and leisure, and cleanliness. The popular discourse about white trash —from non-fiction writing to mass media representation— calls attention to the fragility of these values. Thus, the construction and maintenance of white trash as a discourse demonstrates elite whites’ desperate desire to claim and justify a superior standing in relation to whites that do not conform to mainstream values.

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