Rodeo: An Animal History deftly chronicles the development of rodeo as both a sport and a symbolic reenactment of struggling against the land from the mid-nineteenth century to the present day. Focusing on the animal participants exposes the inherent contradictions of adapting this supposedly quintessentially western sport to modern times. In a region long defined by entrenched nostalgia crashing into changing realities, “tradition” has served as a comforting and familiar means of justifying the persistence of that which leaves open wounds on animals, people, and even the land itself. Nance's nuanced examinations of how events like bronc and bull riding developed into their modern iterations are revealing and unsettling. Sure, there are interesting stories of individual animals who left imprints on the sport. But the bigger contribution of the book is much deeper and far darker, exposing the problematic and often tenuous connections to the past that rodeo is supposed...
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Book Review| February 01 2023
Riding against the Past
Rodeo: An Animal History. By Susan Nance.
University of Oklahoma Press,
312pp., $36.95, hardback, ISBN 9780806165028.
Laura J. Arata
Oklahoma State University
laura j. arata is associate professor of history and director of public history at Oklahoma State University. Her research interests include the American West, African American history, and historic preservation. Her first book, Race and the Wild West: Sarah Bickford, the Montana Vigilantes, and the Tourism of Decline, 1870–1930 (2020), won the 2021 SPUR Award for Best First Book from Western Writers of America and the 2021 Gita Chaudhuri Prize from Western Association of Women's Historians.
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Agricultural History (2023) 97 (1): 146–151.
Laura J. Arata; Riding against the Past. Agricultural History 1 February 2023; 97 (1): 146–151. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00021482-10154337
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