One of the largest imagined communities in our nation-state, the United States of America, has culminated throughout history to now identify 72.4% of our current population (“State and County QuickFacts”). Whiteness, America’s largely imagined identity, is considered to be both a class and a racial identifier. Its “culture”, like all cultures, is highly dynamic and varies across space and time. I aim to either falsify or buttress the stereotypical norm of white, southern culture and their assumed adoration of western wear, country music and beer. To do so, I studied the community that frequents the establishment, Midnight Rodeo, a country western dance hall and bar.
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To submerge myself in participant observation I first had to learn the basics of the country music dance practice, the “two-step” and various line dances. Once I had sufficiently learned these essentials, I was able to conduct more effective and fluid interviews, and gain the trust and ensue ease of the interviewee. Under the Patton Model, I asked interviewees their personal history associated with country music and dance, and their feelings on the practice. It should be noted that to protect the identities of individuals of my research community, as well as condense similar interviews along with their analogous answers, I employ the use of condensed characters and pseudonyms within this ethnography.
Do they as a community dress and act similarly, or do social and class stratification have a hand in determining differences amongst them? How varied is the race compilation of this group? Is it true that southerners are overly hospitable? These are amongst the questions I pursued to answer through my research.
Though race is theoretically rejected as a biological category in anthropological research, differences in phenotypes have created culturally constructed categories that are largely used to racially mark “white people”, as well as other “races”, in our society (Shanklin). Ethnicity is often wrongly assumed to be analogous with race, but more accurately refers to the perceived discrepancies among various races’ cultures and practices, rather than merely physical traits, that are determined primarily on national origin and historical experience. In this particular case, I am attributing country music to the ethnicity of white, southern culture. “Much like the way that the Blues, R&B, Soul, and Hip-hop have served as expressive vehicles for African Americans, Hillbilly and Country music have spoken for white southerners and spoken to them, modeling behaviors and understandings that have helped in the refashioning of southern white culture and identities (Gregory 175).” Not meaning to masquerade my research community under the perceived, culturally static umbrella of essentialism, I would like to acknowledge that through only studying one specific realm and common practice of southern, white culture, I will only be representing a portion of this diverse and evolving community.
Upon visiting Midnight Rodeo, I noticed a lack of racial diversification. Seemingly large portions of patrons were Caucasian and a small handful were Hispanic, but I neglected to notice a single customer of any other racial category. For this reason I sampled varying days of the week on the chance that perhaps this was just a coincidence on that particular night, but regardless of which day of the week I went, I observed the same results, mostly white with a few Hispanic customers. On one particular evening that I attended, my group of around ten girls was targeted by the stereotypical, club “player”. My group was comprised of eight “white” girls and two...