Photography, Performance, Politics: Reimagining American History
This joint book talk by Prof. Matthew Fox-Amato and Prof. Rebecca Scofield delves into their groundbreaking studies of the histories of slavery and marginalized rodeo communities. With presentations from Fox-Amato's *Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America* and Scofield's *Outriders: Rodeo at the Fringes of the American West*, these two scholars illustrate that history was not simply captured in photography and performance, but was shaped by it.
Born and raised in Emmett, Idaho, Rebecca Scofield holds a PhD in American Studies from Harvard University. She is an Assistant Professor of History at the University of Idaho, specializing in 20th century American history, the history of the US West, and the history of gender and sexuality. She is currently a 2019 Whiting Public Engagement Fellow, the primary investigator of The Gay Rodeo Oral History Project and co-creator of the curated online exhibit, the Voices of Gay Rodeo.
Matthew Fox-Amato is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Idaho, where he teaches courses in American history, visual culture, and race and ethnicity. He is the author of *Exposing Slavery: Photography, Human Bondage, and the Birth of Modern Visual Politics in America* (Oxford University Press, 2019). He received a B.A. from Harvard University and a Ph.D. from the University of Southern California.
Rodeo is a dangerous and painful performance in which only the strongest and most skilled riders succeed. In the popular imagination, the western rodeo hero is often a stoic white man who embodies the toughness and independence of America's frontier past. However, marginalized people have starred in rodeos since the very beginning.
Within a few years of the introduction of photography into the United States in 1839, slaveholders had already begun commissioning photographic portraits of their slaves. Ex-slaves-turned-abolitionists such as Frederick Douglass had come to see how sitting for a portrait could help them project humanity and dignity amidst northern racism.