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A Way of Life Knowledge Production Among Black Cowboys
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This project is an ethnography that engages participants and readers in multifaceted and multi-vocal formations of black masculinity and manhood in Western culture. I will present narratives set in different venues for black Western cultural practices where black cowboys communicate information about gender roles and norms. I represent black masculinities among three groups, or types of cowboys— ranchers, rodeo cowboys, and Trail riders— to capture multiple masculinities. In this study, I define black cowboys as Black/African-Americans who participate in ranching, rodeoing, and trailriding. I also make references to Black women who participate in these Western cultural practices and I consider them to be cowboys as well. My broader research question asks how black men transmit cultural information about masculinity through black Western cultural practices. I examine intimate moments of exchange among some groups of contemporary cowboys and look at mechanisms they use to shift racist ideologies. Where knowledge is currency, the person who understands how social and cultural capital is at stake is also able to code switch and maintain a balance in social-cultural differences of opinion. As a black cowboy, the professional rodeo roper destabilizes notions of blackness. However, notions of racial superiority (or inferiority) manifest in subtle ways through jokes, nicknames, and personal experiences in this new context of an inverted hierarchy. Black cowboys engage in ways of negotiating other people’s perceptions of dissent in the way blackness or masculinity should be performed that are two-fold throughout this study. First, the idea that a racialized cowboy assumes a masculinity that, for the white people, and many black people, is illegible. Second, the process of teaching and learning black cultural forms of navigating white male racist patriarchal expressions. My position is that cowboys’ performances of masculinity challenge common sense understandings about contemporary black male identities because their masculinized experiences illustrate mechanisms used to navigate the complex relationship, or the false dichotomy, between (male) privilege and (racial) marginalization for this group. My method for collecting data is based on specific efficacious goals for the individual, context, and experience. The experiences (re)presented here construct a narrative that complicates generalized notions about masculinities as they intersect at multiple sociological factors among this section of black culture.
Babers, Myeshia Chanel (2017). A Way of Life Knowledge Production Among Black Cowboys. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from