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Kimberly A. Williams wants the annual Calgary Stampede to change its ways. An intrepid feminist scholar with a wry sense of humour, Williams deftly weaves theory, history, pop culture and politics to challenge readers to make sense of how gender and race matter at Canada’s oldest and largest western heritage festival. Stampede examines the settler colonial roots of the Calgary Stampede and uses its centennial celebration in 2012 to explore how the event continues to influence life on the streets and in the bars and boardrooms of Canada’s fourth-largest city. Using a variety of cultural materials—photography, print advertisements, news coverage, poetry and social media—Williams asks who gets to be part of the “we” in the Stampede’s slogan “We’re Greatest Together,” and who doesn’t.
Kimberly A. Williams’ Stampede is a very welcome addition to feminist scholarship and the previous analyses dedicated to the Calgary Stampede. Several historians and cultural theorists have explored the significance of the Stampede’s legacy to the prairie west, but Williams provides a feminist analysis of a more contemporary iteration of the event, the 2012 centennial celebrations. If, like Williams, you are not from Calgary, or even an Albertan, the Calgary Stampede certainly is a spectacular oddity. Even though she positions herself as an outsider experiencing an unfamiliar cultural event, given that the origin of the Stampede was an echo of the American Wild West shows, Williams might be the perfect person to be asking these important feminist questions. By focusing on what Williams refers to as “Stampede clichés,” things that have occurred so frequently and therefore become normalized and divested of original meanings, Stampede restores meaning to the seemingly innocent, [and] reveal[s] the ways in which the event is responsible for creating and maintaining a social, political, and economic environment detrimental to women in Calgary specifically, but across Alberta more broadly.
— Susan L. Joudrey, Labour / Le Travail, Spring 2022 (full review)