Talking White Trash documents the complex and interwoven relationship between mediated representations and lived experiences of white working-class people—a task inspired by the author’s experiences growing up in a white working-class family and neighborhood and how she came to understand herself through watching films and television shows.
The increasing presence of white working-class people in media, particularly within the genre of reality television, and their role in fueling the unprecedented rise of Donald Trump, has made this population a central subject of U.S. cultural discourse. Rather than relying solely on analyses of mediated portrayals, Dunn makes use of personal narratives, interviews, focus groups, textual analysis, and critical autoethnography to specifically analyze how popular media articulates certain ideas about white working-class people, and how those who identify as members of this population, including herself, negotiate such articulations.
Dunn’s work provides alternative stories that are rarely, if ever, found in popular media—stories that feature the varied reactions and lived experiences of white working-class people; stories that talk to, talk with, and talk back to mediated representations and dominant cultural ideas; stories that illuminate the multidimensionality of a population that is often portrayed in one-dimensional ways; stories that move inside and outside the white working-class to better understand their role within, and influence upon, U.S. culture.
Table of Contents
Introduction. Mediated Buffoons as Political Stakeholders: Welcome to the White Working-Class
Chapter 1. Becoming "White Trash": The Formation and Historical Mediated Representations of the White Working-Class
Chapter 2. Digging in the "Trash": Contemporary Mediated Representations of White Working-Class People
Chapter 3. From Insider to Insider/Outsider: An Autoethnographic Account of Returning to My Working-Class Roots
Chapter 4. "It’s Like Watching a Car Accident": When the Lived and Mediated Experiences of White Working-Class People Intersect
Conclusion. Taking Out the "Trash": A New Beginning for the White Working-Class
About the Author
Tasha R. Dunn, Ph.D. is a scholar and professor of communication. Her research addresses the relationship between mediated representations and lived experiences, with a particular focus on qualitative inquiry, critical/cultural studies, popular culture, performance studies, whiteness, class, and gender.
"Dunn makes an important contribution to television studies, and Talking White Trash should also be useful to scholars of cultural studies, autoethnography, American studies, or any scholars studying class in the United States."
Michael Mario Albrecht, The University of South Florida
"[...] Dunn writes candidly throughout the book about the performances of middle-classness necessary to be taken seriously as an academic. Dunn’s honest reflections about these tensions extend beyond Talking White Trash, serving as a necessary reminder of how the academy is a space marked by race, class, and other aspects of identity. It is only through work like Dunn’s that we may begin to pull back the curtain to expose these divisions in higher education, in media, in politics, and in culture and, as Dunn notes, serve as “a springboard from which to jump and discover new knowledge” (141)."
Holly Willson Holladay, Assistant Professor at Missouri State University
"This book would make an excellent addition to qualitative research classes. Despite being under 160 pages, the book offers the reader an in-depth example of the ways in which researchers can and should wrestle with negotiated identities as both insiders and outsiders to the subjects they are researching. Throughout her work, Dunn is honest in the ways in which she struggled to understand her topic, participants, and perhaps most importantly, herself. Her willingness to challenge her own preconceived notions of her participants’ beliefs is a testimony to her work as a scholar. It is this type of honest assessment and critical reflection that makes this text a worthwhile choice for those pursuing autoethnography work at any level."
Michael Dieter, Lewis University and De La Salle Institute
"In sum, I highly recommend this book. If one wants to read about the effects that White trash representations have on White working-class people and the perceptions members of this group may have about such tropes, this is a fascinating book to read."
Antonio Spikes, Davidson University