This article provides a series of critical reflections on my recent encounters with the spaces and bodies of tourist Appalachia. As both researcher and returnee, I look back on various qualitative research activities that have brought me back home to the Appalachian tourist destination of Sevier County, Tennessee. In so doing, I also outline (1) the market transformations that have come to shape the present-day Appalachian tourist economy—and the bodies working within it, (2) the ways in which active and symbolic forms of hillbilly embodiment produce not only local identities but the very “tourist gaze” upon which those bodies are often fixed and thus made marketable, and (3) my struggles as a critical qualitative researcher-returnee to come to terms with these corporeal-commercial projections. I end with a discussion on how my researcher-hillbilly body is negotiated, complicated, and [re]made as I return to spaces of my youth.
- © 2014 International Institute for Qualitative Research, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign