Once described as the bloodiest and most dangerous prison in the United States, the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola hosts one of the only remaining prison rodeo and crafts fair in the United States.

The event, more commonly known as “The Wildest Show in the South” is open to visitors every Sunday in October and for one weekend in April. Advertisements for the day-long event promise “untrained convicts roping and wrangling livestock” and the opportunity to browse among “authentic” prison crafts and concessions.

Employing Victor Turner’s classic understanding of the workings of the social drama and Diana Taylor’s approach to the study of a scenario, this essay illustrates how the Louisiana State Penitentiary, through the careful staging and performance of a rodeo and crafts fair, renders the prison and the bodies of the incarcerated men as objects of desire, commodification and control.

The Angola Prison Rodeo and Crafts Fair transforms the prison into a space of tourism, the incarcerated men into objects of surveillance, and returns punishment to that of a spectacle by offering the bodies of the incarcerated as a form of public entertainment.


Discipline and the Performance of Punishment: Welcome to “The Wildest Show in the South”

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