Dr. Deborah Thompson

Coordinator of Country Dance Programs
Lecturer in Health and Human Performance
At Berea College since 2006

Contact Information

Stephenson Hall, 301D
CPO 2055
Email: thompsonde@berea.edu
Phone: 859-985-3142
Fax: 859-985-3919

Deborah Thompson Headshot

Spring 2019

Office Hours

Mon/Wed: 2:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
& by appointment

My schedule is quite flexible. Please be sure to email me or call with suggestions for another time if needed.

Class Schedule

  • HHP 206Z A (Mon/Wed: 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.)


  • B.A. in American and Appalachian Studies, Hampshire College, 1982
  • M.A. in Appalachian Studies, Appalachian State University, 1988
  • Ph. D. in Geography, University of Kentucky, 2012

Special Interests

  • Traditional music and dance, including singing and playing banjo, guitar, lap dulcimer
  • Appalachian Studies and place-based education
  • Cultural geography, especially the geography of music and religion
  • Material culture, especially fiber arts and historic architecture
  • Women’s and gender studies
  • Sustainable living

Papers and Publications

  • “Appalachian Women Heritage Fellows,” Smithsonian Folkways online, Winter 2018. https://folkways.si.edu/magazine-winter-2018-appalachian-women-heritage-fellows
  • 2012- Dissertation: Performing Community: The Place of Race, Gender, and Music in Producing Appalachian Space; Advisor: Dr. Richard H. Schein
  • 2009- with Darrin Hacquard: “Region, Race, Representation: Observations on Traditional African-American Music in Appalachia,” Journal of Appalachian Studies, Vol. 15, Numbers 1 & 2, pp. 126-139
  • 2009- Contributor to The Architectural History of Watauga County, North Carolina, Dan Pezzoni, editor. Boone, NC: Watauga County Historical Society.
  • 2006 – “Searching for Silenced Voices in Appalachia,” article for special issue of GeoJournal 65: 67-78, Stanley Waterman and Stanley Brunn, editors; Kluwer Springer Publishers, Berlin and New York
  • 2006 – with Irene Moster: “Folklore and Folkways” chapter for A Handbook to Appalachia; Grace Toney Edwards, JoAnn Aust Asbury, and Ricky L. Cox, eds.; University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville
  • 2006 – Writer and Section Editor on “Intentional Communities,” co-editor (with Shirley Stewart Burns and Shaunna Scott) for “Families and Communities” section, writer on “Music” section for Encyclopedia of Appalachia; Jean Haskell and Rudy Abramson, eds.; University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville
  • 1998 – Transylvania: The Architectural History of a Mountain County.  Co-authored with Laura A.W. Phillips. Raleigh, NC: Marblehead Publishing Co.


  • Media review of compact disc, Big Bend Killing: The Appalachian Ballad Tradition. Journal of Appalachian Studies.


Deborah Thompson combines her love of old time music and dance with her desire to share them with others, serving the college and community as coordinator of country dance programs at Berea College. Her dissertation research focused on the interconnections of music and community in eastern Kentucky and how race and gender inflects the social construction of Appalachia. She came to Berea College in 2006 on being awarded the first Appalachian Sound Archives Fellowship, then coordinated the Celebration of Traditional Music and served as the Programming Director for the Appalachian Center until 2009. She began her current position in 2010, also teaching Appalachian Studies, traditional dance, and Berea College’s signature writing seminar on identity and diversity in the U.S. Her teaching experience includes serving on the faculty of Union College in Barbourville, KY from 1991-2001, where she was director of the Appalachian Semester and assistant professor of Appalachian Studies. She has taught undergraduate-level courses in Appalachian Studies, Sociology, Geography, General Studies, and Women’s and Gender Studies.

Besides her extensive teaching background, she has also worked as a local arts council director, principal investigator for historic architecture surveys, and resident director for cultural study programs in Appalachia, Mexico, and the Texas-Mexico border. Deborah learned to play banjo, guitar, and dulcimer during the folk revival of the 1970s and has repertoire from living and playing in Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, and New England. Since 1976, she has performed both solo and with various groups, currently with the old time and Americana band, Skipjack. She has been an avid folk dancer since her teenage years, as well as playing music for dances, moving into calling and organizing community dances in 1986. She has taught classes and workshops in Appalachian music and dance for all ages since 1984, including public school residencies and Elderhostels, Appalshop’s Banjo Day, Hindman Family Folk Week, Cowan Creek Music School, Augusta Heritage Center, and John C. Campbell Folk School.

Her specialty is interpreting Appalachian music and dance, presenting programs that tie together the history of the Appalachian region, information about and demonstrations on various instruments, and a smattering of music theory. Her training includes many years of performance and playing with traditional musicians and interviewing traditional artists for cultural and heritage studies.
In the summer of 2017, Dr. Thompson, Dr. Susan English, and Jennifer Rose Escobar led the Country Dancers on a trip to Yunnan Province in China as cultural ambassadors through a U.S. State Department grant and hope to continue those relationships with further visits. After that, a slightly different group traveled to Denmark, along with community dancers in the Folk Circle Association as part of a long-standing Danish-American Exchange, staying with host families while performing in and visiting the Vendsyssel area of northern Jutland, then performed at the Landsstœvne sports festival in Aalborg and the July 4th Danish-American friendship celebration in Rebild. In the summer of 2018, Dr. Thompson presented as part of a panel on the politics of dance at the 30th Symposium of the ICTM Study Group on Ethnochoreology in Szeged, Hungary. She is also currently engaged as Senior Social Scientist at Livelihoods Knowledge Exchange Network, conducting community-based research on Appalachian land ownership and Stories of Place.