Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Gina Caison

Second Advisor

Dr. Mark Noble

Third Advisor

Dr. Chris Kocela


This thesis investigates how performers on the television show Moonshiners challenge essentialist characterizations of the Appalachian South as a counterpoint to American nationalism. While many may believe that Moonshiners’ producers merely exploit regional identity to attract audiences, the performers claim a southern Appalachian heritage while redefining what it means to be a southern Appalachian person in the present moment. Furthermore, while the show relies on an imagined past South to create a genealogy that renders performers the authentic inheritors of moonshining’s cultural history, performers present a modern-day Appalachian South that participates in the national economy. Ultimately, my thesis explores how characters on the show use reality television to revise their audiences’ understanding of southern Appalachian people as “pre- or anti-modern,” encouraging audiences to recognize that while southern Appalachians still revere their cultural history, they adapt that cultural history to each new context.