Year of Graduation


Document Type



Political Science

Directing Professor

Dr. Jon Bohland


The first political barbecue took place in Virginia during the Colonial period. Since then, barbecue has remained an essential part of American civic life. Western Virginia, defined for the purposes of this thesis as the political borders of the sixth and ninth Congressional Districts in Virginia as drawn in 2021, is largely a rural area, considered by most political consultants to be heavily Republican and not winnable seats for Democratic candidates. The state Democratic Party of Virginia has rarely earmarked funds or support for candidates within those districts for the past two decades. Ironically, the Democratic party controlled this same area from the founding of Virginia until the 1990s. This thesis examines the rural divide that exists between the local Democrats who work within the western Virginia region and the hierarchical Democratic party at the state and national level. This paper also examines the historical significance of barbecue - both food and events - on the political participation of western Virginians, as well as rural Virginia culture through first-person interviews, surveys, and discourse analysis of news media, partisan state party materials, and historical documents. This analysis reveals that creating community through direct action, in particular using ba