Rodeo Lab

Photograph by Jacob Pablo Mitas

Rodeo Lab is a jag of research and rumination relating to past, present, and speculative future encounters among postdomestic companion species. I have rustled the term “postdomestic” from historian Richard Bulliet (see his Hunters, Herders, and Hamburgers) and poet Claire Hero (see her Sing, Mongrel). In Bulliet’s usage, “postdomestic” describes a historical and cultural phase in the West that follows the “domestic,” where for a long time humans and other domestic mammals (horses, cows, sheep, goats, and so on) lived together in mutual dependence and much more commonly than they tend to nowadays. The “postdomestic,” then, is a phase in which such interspecies tanglements are less common for most urban-dwelling humans, even as they are still represented culturally in many ways, from songs every kid learns about farmyard inhabitants to the keeping of some domestic species as pets. Meanwhile, many (agri)cultural outposts continue to revolve around domestic interrelations that stretch values and connections across Western rural-urban divides.

Rodeo is one of these nodes, and one that holds special fascination and embedded conflicts for the R.A.W. Rodeo Lab investigates certain tangly tricks and ties that bind us, humans and bovines and equines and caprines and ovines, and of course canids and felines, and those others who thrive on the fringes of our posts, our fenceposts, our postdomestic lives. Meanwhile we also glitter up questions of human sexuality and old-fashioned gender binaries that buck and twist through decorative chaps, sequins and sparkles, and biophiliac flowerpacks (a phenomenon popular with rodeo queens of the Pacific Northwest).

Artifact from the Time of the Golden Heifer: Much more to come of this exploration . . . but sometiems one must go outside and attend to the pressing problem of two cows named Princess and Waffle pressing down the pasture fence to get to the little bit of green grass on the other side. The weight of bovine desires weighs heavy sometimes.


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