Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion urges us to look beyond cowboy clichés to see the other types of cowboys and cowgirls that exist and to understand how the many different race- and group-specific rodeos in the United States complicate and enrich our understanding of the American West.
The book presents rodeo as not just a performance of Western identity but as a complex story of sport. It is a sporting place where separate competitive circuits based on race and sexuality still exist, long after the formal end of legal segregation and the disappearance separate leagues like this in many other sports. Because rodeo has such a hold on the American historical and cultural imagination – and because it has such deep ties for many communities in their own histories and experiences in the West – this space becomes an ideal arena for establishing the relevance that rodeo holds for people in the United States, and it helps us understand why these separate circuits remain popular today. African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Hawaiians, and the LGBT+ community use their own rodeo circuits differently. Sometimes these separate rodeos continue to act as a site of refuge from an unwelcoming outside world. For others, the race- and group-specific rodeos have been sites of rebellion where competitors educate outsiders about their presence, stake a claim on both a Western and an American identity, and yet still celebrate their difference.
More About the Book
Elyssa Ford, Rodeo as Refuge, Rodeo as Rebellion: Gender, Race, and Identity in the American Rodeo (University Press of Kansas, 2020).
More About the Authors
Elyssa Ford is Associate Professor of History at Northwest Missouri State University and specializes in public history and women’s history, with a focus on identity and memory.