i During the American Civil War (1861-1865) the property that is now the Louisiana State Penitentiary served as either a Union or Confederate prison. In 1869, the land was officially purchased by Samuel Lawrence James, a major in the former Confederate Army, and the James family continued to use the property as a prison.

ii For more on prison tourism and/or public fascination with crime and punishment, see: Jessica Adams, ‘The Wildest Show in the South: Tourism and Incarceration at Angola’. The Drama Review 45 (2001), p. 94-108.; John Lennon and Malcolm Foley, Dark Tourism: The Attraction of Death and Disaster (London: Thompson Press, 2000); Robert Perkinson, ‘Angola and the Agony of Prison Reform’. Radical Philosophy Review, 3 (2000), p. 8-19.; Phillip Stone, ‘A Dark Tourism Spectrum: Towards a Typology of Death and Macabre Related Tourist Sites, Attractions and Exhibitions’. Tourism, 54 (2006), p. 145-160.; Carolyn Strange and Michael Kempa, ‘Shades of Dark Tourism: Alcatraz and Robben Island’. Annals of Tourism Research, 30 (2003), p. 386-405.; Phillip E. Tarlow, “Dark Tourism: The Appealing ‘Dark Side’ of Tourism and More” in Marina Novelli (ed), Niche Tourism—Contemporary Issues, Trends and Cases (Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, 2005), p. 47-58.

iii In 1866, legislatures throughout the South, first introduced in Texas, began passing laws that would become known as the “Black Codes”; a set of laws explicitly designed to prohibit formerly enslaved men and women from participating in society as fully integrated citizens. The “Black Codes” places restrictions on travel, property ownership, participation in the legal process—as jury members or to testify against whites—and the right to vote. The legislation, and the subsequent arrest and incarceration of many formerly enslaved men and women, quickly transformed the prison system into a form of indentured servitude. The plantation-to-prison transformation of land throughout the south can be seen in the history and aesthetic of the Louisiana State Penitentiary. The practice of “convict leasing” emerged as a result of the incarceration of thousands of men and women in the Reconstruction Era (1865-1877) and the years that followed. Some still see the period of Reconstruction and the Jim Crow Era as having devastating consequences for black men and women and as a cause of the racial imbalance in the prison system. For a more nuanced discussion of legacy of the Jim Crow Era, see: Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2010, New Press).

iv The Los Angeles Times’ on-line travel section described the history of the Louisiana State Penitentiary in an article about the 2008 Rodeo and Crafts Fair. <>. 10 August 2008.

v In 1961, the women incarcerated at The Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola were moved to the Louisiana Correctional Institute for Women. Prior to 1961 men and women were housed, in separate units, at the prison.

vi In a November 22, 1952, article Collier’s Magazine titled Angola “America’s Worst Prison”. A September 24, 1962, article in the Baton Rouge Sunday Advocate called Angola “the bloodiest prison in the south”. Both articles are on display in the Angola Museum.

vii Robert Perkinson, ‘Angola and the Agony of Prison Reform’. Radical Philosophy Review, 3 (2000), p. 9.

viii The Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas hosted a prison rodeo from 1931 to 1986. In 1940, the Oklahoma State Penitentiary in McAlester, Oklahoma began hosting a “prisoner-run” rodeo. Because of state budget shortfalls the 2010 rodeo was “furloughed”, according to the McAlester Chamber of Commerce <>.  For more information on the history of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, see: “History of the Louisiana State Penitentiary Prison Rodeo and Crafts Fair” <>.

ix My participation in four day-long rodeo and crafts fair events resulted in on-site, extended interviews with thirty-five visitors, six incarcerated men, and four prison employees, and continued conversations (via email) with twenty visitors and two incarcerated men (via hand-written letters). Research findings in this essay are based upon my experience attended the Angola Prison Rodeo and Crafts Fair on Sunday, October 22, 2006; Saturday, April 21, 2007; Sunday April 22, 2007; and October 19, 2008.

x Dwight Conquergood, ‘Poetics, Play, Process, and Power: The Performative Turn in Anthropology’. Text and Performance Quarterly, 9 (1989), p. 84.

xi For more on the growth of the U.S. prison population, specifically the “boom years” of 1972 to 2009, see: Mark Mauer, Race to Incarcerate (New York, NY: New Press, 1999. For more statistical findings related to race and incarceration see the U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, ‘Jail Inmates at Midyear 2009’ and ‘Prison Inmates at Midyear 2009’, (30 April 2010), <>.

xii Visitors to Angola are not permitted to carry cameras, video/audio recorders, or cellular phones; additionally, the only textual material distributed or posted at the event is the Rodeo Program Guide.

xiii Victor Turner, The Ritual Process: Structure and Anti-Structure. (Edison, NJ: Aldine Transaction, 1969), p. 34.

xiv Nick Trujillo, ‘Interpreting November 22: A Critical Ethnography of an Assassination Site’. Quarterly Journal of Speech, 79 (1993), p. 449.

xv Michal M. McCall and Howard S. Becker. Symbolic Interaction and Cultural Studies. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), p. 9.

xvi Diane Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), p. 20.

xvii : Taylor provides the following six steps for the study of a scenario: 1. Conjure the physical location. 2. Describe the actions and appearance of the social actors in a particular space. 3. Describe the “frame” of the event, most often which is fixed and predictable, often drawing from a historical context. 4. In the transmission of the scenario various modes can be used including: writing, telling, reenactment, mime, gesture, dance, or singing. 5. Enact reflexivity to situate ourselves in relation to the scenario. 6. Resist allowing the scenario to be purely mimetic. An extended discussion of the six-step process Taylor describes can be found in Diana Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), p. 29.

xviii Benjamin D. Powell and Tracy T. Shaffer, ‘On the Haunting of Performance Studies’. Liminalities: A Journal of Performance Studies, 5 (2009), p. 7.

xix Dwight Conquergood, D., ‘Poetics, Play, Process, and Power: The Performative Turn in Anthropology’. Text and Performance Quarterly, 9 (1989), p. 84.; Diana Taylor, The Archive and The Repertoire: Performing Cultural Memory in the Americas. (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003), p. 10.

xx Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire, p. 13.

xxi Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle. (Detroit: Black and Red Press, 1967). Para 4.

xxii Taylor, The Archive and the Repertoire, p. 27.

xxiii Barbara Krishenblatt-Gimblett, Destination Culture: Tourism, Museums, and Heritage. (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1998), p. 7.

xxiv Michael Dobie, ‘The Alcatraz of the South: Inside Angola, the Nation’s Largest Maximum Security Prison’. 18 July 2004. <,0,2969588.story>. n.p.

xxv In order to gain trustee status an individual must have been at Angola for over fifteen years without having committed a “major infraction”. Trustees are granted the most access and privileges on a daily basis at the prison and during the rodeo and crafts fair.

xxvi A quarter of the 5,000 men incarcerated at the prison participate in the rodeo and/or crafts fair.

xxvii The men participating in the crafts fair must finance their participation and purchase all the needed supplies for their artwork and crafts. The men I spoke with told me most of their profits were sent home to their families and they only keep what they need for craft and personal supplies.

xxviii Kenwood and I exchange letters for about two years; the first letter arrived in November 2006 and our last correspondence occurred in January 2008. As far as I know there was not an incident or reason for our correspondences to end. My last letter to Kenwood was postmarked January 23, 2008. 

xxix Walter Benjamin, 'On Some Motifs in Baudelaire'. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections in Hannah Arendt (ed) and Harry Zohn (trans) (New York: Schocken, 1969), p. 158.

xxx Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, Alan Sheridan (trans), (New York: Vintage, 1979), p. 57.

xxxi Ibid., p. 69.

xxxii Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century. (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1992), p. 105.

xxxiii Tony Bennett, The Birth of the Museum: History, Theory, Politics. (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 61.

xxxiv Ibid., p. 95.

xxxv Foucault, Discipline and Punish, p. 4.

xxxvi Ibid., p. 14.

xxxvii Trustees are the only men permitted to have a stand/table at the crafts fair where direct interaction with tourists is possible. Because there are fewer trustees within the prison, a disproportionate amount of men sell from behind the fence.

xxxviii Marianna Torgovnick, Gone Primitive: Savage Intellects, Modern Lives (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1990). p. 3.

xxxix Margaret Olin, ‘Gaze’ in Robert Nelson and Richard Shiff (eds), Critical Terms for Art History. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996), p. 325.

xl Jean-Paul Satre, Being and Nothingness. (New York: Philosophical Library, 1956), p. 110.

xli Warden Burl Cain at Pre-Rodeo Press Conference 2003. Quoted in: Melissa Schrift, ‘The Angola Prison Rodeo: Inmate Cowboys and Institutional Tourism’. Ethnology, 43 (2009), p. 336.

xlii The Glory Riders <>.

xliii Turner, The Ritual Process, p. 71.

xliv Schrift, The Angola Prison Rodeo, p. 331.

xlv The winner of “Guts and Glory” and the man named “All-Around Cowboy” receive prizes. A five hundred dollar cash prize is given to the winner of “Guts and Glory;” the “All-Around Cowboy” receives a rodeo belt buckle. To be eligible for the coveted title of "All-Around Cowboy” a contestant must successfully complete the bull riding competition (eight seconds). 

xlvi Daniel Bergner, God of the Rodeo: The Quest for Redemption in Louisiana’s Angola Prison. (New York: Ballantine Books, 1998), p. 15.

xlvii Susan Sontag, ‘The Image-World’ in Jessica Evans and Stuart Hall (eds), Visual Culture: The Reader. London: Sage Publications, 1999, p. 93.

xlviii Debord, Society of the Spectacle, Para. 6-7.

xlix Perkinson, Angola and Prison Reform, p. 17.

l Taylor, The Archive and The Repertoire, p. 18.

li Ibid., p. 36.

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