Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Rachel Dubrofsky, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Aisha Durham, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Margarethe Kusenbach, Ph.D.


media, class, whiteness, autoethnography, liminality


This project 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. Theoretically guided by Foucault’s recognition that people are constituted in and through discourse, the author specifically analyzes how reality television articulates certain ideas about white working-class people and how those who identify as members of this population, including the author, negotiate such articulations. A focus on white working-class people is important considering their increasing presence in reality television and the ways in which they are frequently ridiculed in U.S. cultural discourse. Through a combination of qualitative methods, including critical autoethnography, interviews, interactive focus groups, and close textual analysis, the author focuses on three findings: (1) the lived experiences of white working-class people are complex and can be used to challenge essentializing stereotypes about this population prevalent in the media; (2) films and television shows are polysemic as evidenced by the varied responses of white working-class people; and (3) listening to those who are implicated in media sites can render more complex the analyses and critiques scholars provide as well as contribute to the recent increase of media studies that speak across multiple methods and boundaries.

Included in

Communication Commons