Homeplace: Hipsters and the Making of Belonging in Appalachian Square Dance

While many urbanites today would consider square dancing old-fashioned, or uncool, large numbers of “cool” young people - known as hipsters - are actively organizing and participating in dance events, enthusiastically embracing an imagined ideal they associate with Appalachia. They describe this Appalachianesque ethos as “Homeplace.” Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted from 2011-2016 in six American cities known as “meccas” for hipster culture yet located outside Appalachia, explore how these unlikely participants are giving meaning to Old Time dancing through shifts that create a sense of security and belonging through these events. “Homeplace” is powerfully embodied through these dance events and is significantly shaping the affective experience of the dancers, the choreographic structures of the dances, and a version of Appalachia that complicate community and a sense of place through a variety of questions. How are the connections between these places and this Appalachian ethos made into being through enactment of Homeplace? Why are these particular dance forms appealing? What is it about imagining Appalachia in particular; about imagining a particular Appalachia that is compelling to these young people? And what are the consequences of writing culture upon our bodies? Of inhabiting another’s places through bodily imagining? Utilizing Sara Ahmed’s model of affective economies (2004) in conversation with research on dance in Appalachia (Spalding 2014, 1995, Jameson 2015, Bealle 2005), and work on hipster subcultures (Schiermer 2013, Strohecker 2011) I explore important questions about belonging and place in a highly mobile world.