Preface and Acknowledgments
1. Throughout the book, italics are used when a term is referred to as a
term, and quotation marks are used to enclose objectionable terms at their
first use, but not thereafter.
1. On nigger as a ‘‘troublesome word,’’ see R. Kennedy 2002. It is unlikely
that over the course of history white trash has inflicted as much human suf-
fering and anguish as nigger—few ethnophaulisms in the American lexicon
have. Yet the term white trash has performed much of the same symbolic
violence. While white trash remains a ‘‘fighting word’’ in some circles, it con-
tinues to be used colloquiallyand humorously bydifferent outgroups in ways
that are impossible to imagine with nigger.The meanings of nigger have been
hotly contested, but African Americans have largely gained control over the
word. Poor whites have not been similarly mobilized by whitetrash (although
the same cannot be said for redneck—see Kirwan 1951; Reed 1972, 1986; Roe-
buck and Hickson 1982; Huber 1995; and Goad 1997). See J. Katz 1988: 268
for brief but cogent remarks on the different ways these words operate in
‘‘cultures of insult.’’ See also S. Smith 2006.
2. See, however, the Ethnic Prejudice in America series published by Me-
ridian Books in the 1970s, especially Selzer 1972 and Wu 1972. See also
Harkins 2004.
3. Among the classic sociological and anthropological works on shared
representations and symbolic orders are Durkheim 1915/1965 and Lévi-
Strauss 1966. In terms of the logic of structures, white trash is both the raw
and the cooked, abstract categories that should not be mixed.The conflicting
emotions and cognitive dissonance that attach to such admixtures are so in-
tense that often they must be defused through humorand wit. So amusement
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