6:30 PM Session 11: Banquet Keynote
Louis S. Warren — Buffalo Bill in the Borderlands
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West spun an epic frontier story about the conquest of far flung lands by a hero whose success foreshadowed the rise of a nation. This paper focuses on representations of Mexico in Buffalo Bill’s Wild West to suggest we take our eyes off the epic and try to understand the show in light of the new borderlands history, a field that illuminates the condition of people living between and alongside borders old, new, and contested. This approach can perhaps help us to understand the many borderland performers for whom the frontier did not end in national triumph and for whom the future remained ambiguous — and it might even help us better understand William Cody himself.
Louis S. Warren is W. Turrentine Jackson Professor of Western U.S. History at the University of California, Davis, and the author most recently of God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America (Basic, 2017). Prior books include Buffalo Bill’s America: William Cody and the Wild West Show (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005) and The Hunter’s Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth-Century America (Yale, 1997), as well as an edited textbook, American Environmental History (Blackwell, 2003). He was founding co-editor and first editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed, magazine-format, cross-disciplinary quarterly called Boom: A Journal of California, which was honored with a Best New Magazine award in 2011. He has received numerous awards for his writing, including the Albert Beveridge Award of the American Historical Association, the Caughey Western History Association Prize, the Western Writer’s of America Spur Award, the Great Plains Distinguished Book Prize, the National Cowboy Hall of Fame Wrangler Award for Best Non-Fiction Book, and a Guggenheim Fellowship.