David Whisnant is a native of Asheville , North Carolina. He received a B.S. from Georgia Institute of Technology in 1961, an M.A. from Duke University in 1962, a Ph.D. from Duke in 1965, and an M.S.W. from the University of North Carolina in 1996. He was inducted into Phi Eta Sigma, Tau Beta Pi, and Phi Beta Kappa.
He began his teaching career at the University of Illinois in 1965, and from 1972 to 1975 was an independent researcher and writer before taking a position in American Studies at the University of Maryland Baltimore County (1975-88). From 1988 to 2000 he was Professor of English at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and also taught in American Studies, Folklore, Latin American Studies, and Communications Studies.
He has received research fellowships and grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Smithsonian Institution, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
His books include James Boyd (1972); Modernizing the Mountaineer: People, Power and Planning in Appalachia (1981; rev. ed.1994); All That Is Native and Fine: The Politics of Culture in an American Region (1983; Elsie Clews Parsons Prize, American Folklore Society, 1984; nominated for Pulitzer Prize); and Rascally Signs in Sacred Places: The Politics of Culture in Nicaragua (1995). He also edited Process, Policy and Context: Contemporary Perspectives on Appalachian Culture (1979).
He has also published more than eighty articles, reviews, encyclopedia articles, and other items on American literature; Appalachian history and culture; politics of culture; cultural policy; Nicaraguan history and culture; traditional music; documentary film; history and politics of planned economic development; vernacular culture; and folklife festivals. They have appeared in American Historical Review; Appalachian Journal; Business and Society Review; Centennial Review; Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy; Ideologies and Literature; John Edwards Memorial Foundation Quarterly; Journal of American Folklore; Journal of Appalachian Studies; Journal of Country Music; Journal of Higher Education; Journal of Social History; Journal of Southern History; Latin American Research Review; Nation; New South; Planning for Higher Education; Register of the Kentucky Historical Society; Soundings; Southern Folklore Quarterly; Southern Exposure; Southern Folklore; and Virginia Magazine of History and Biography.
He has consulted with and served on the boards of many public and private agencies: Folklife Program of the Smithsonian Institution; Folk Arts Program of the National Endowment for the Arts; National Endowment for the Humanities; Maryland Arts Council; William King Regional Arts Center; Appalachian Center of the University of Kentucky; Program on Culture and National Identity, East-West Center; Foxfire Fund; Virginia Commission on the Humanities; American Folklore Society; Highlander Research and Education Center, and many university presses and scholarly journals.
David’s current (2014-) project, Asheville Junction, is a blog exploring the social history of Asheville, NC as viewed through the experience of one working-class family. It is situated at the intersection of personal history, family, community, & region.