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Appalachian Studies Distinguished Alumni Lecture held April 16

BOONE—The Center for Appalachian Studies at Appalachian State University invites the campus community and public to the first-ever Appalachian Studies Distinguished Alumni Lecture, Thursday, April 16, from 3-4 p.m. in the Three Top Room of Plemmons Student Union.

The lecture will feature Dr. Deborah Thompson of Berea College. Her talk, titled “Who Gets to be an Appalachian Musician? Insights from Social Theory and Geography,” will utilize concepts from social theory and geography to discuss the place of race and gender in the production of traditional Appalachian music. Her talk is free and open to the public.

Traditional, participatory music is a powerful medium through which people express and shape their ideas about identity, mobility, social relations and belonging, and through which people are in turn shaped. The everyday cultural practices of playing, sharing and dancing to traditional music all work to construct the region called Appalachia, through the circulation of presentation and representation. Discussions about the nature of traditional music and production of events involving traditional music – such as who is invited to represent the region in a festival – also socially produce Appalachian space.

Thompson explained that, “My research explores the workings of music, including participant observation in old time jam sessions and festival production, as well as interviews with female and male, Caucasian and African American musicians in Appalachia. Which musicians and singers belong to various communities, which of them are chosen to represent the music and the region in various venues, and who does the choosing are important questions with economic, social, and emotional ramifications.”

Thompson graduated from Appalachian with a Master of Arts degree in Appalachian studies in 1988. She earned a doctorate in geography from the University of Kentucky. She is an assistant professor of general studies at Berea College.

“Dr. Thompson’s work represents a ground-breaking approach to traditional mountain music and her talk should appeal to students and faculty across the social sciences and humanities, as well as the surrounding community,” said Dr. William Schumann, director of the Center for Appalachian Studies. “We are very pleased to welcome her back to Boone as our first-ever Distinguished Alumni Lecturer.”

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