Cowboy Nature: A Political Ecology of Songs from the American Frontier




Gonzalez, Cutter

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The cowboy is among the most pervasive images in Texas culture. Artworks depicting cowboys and the songs of the cowboys themselves dominate the post-revolutionary public consciousness. From the vaquero to the urban cowboy, its iconography has become a contested but normative framework for establishing Texan identity. However, many who don its trappings are unaware of its historical roots and unfamiliar with the reality of cowboy lifestyle. The myth of the cowboy surpassed cowboy reality. This mythology has ramifications, as its latent ideological claims—its epistemologies and its ontologies—influence political and cultural narratives through the present. In contemporary Texas, with its capitalist economic organization dominated by an energy industry that is predicated on the endless exploitation of non-human resources, concerns about environmental protection and climate change conflict with traditional narratives about Texanness. This honors thesis explores the subjective understanding of “nature” in the songs of the cowboys. It complements existing research on this topic by expanding the contextualization of expressed and implicit meaning. This paper seeks to answer more than, “What does it mean?” It considers the ontological position of the cowboy in relation to the non-human in greater depth and with clearer relationships to present-day Texas. Through an interrogation of the buried epistemologies in cowboy songs, an application of new philosophical frameworks for understanding the relationship between subject and object, and historical contextualization, cowboy songs emerge at a nexus of conflicting ideas about nature that at once support and undermine the economic project of contemporary Texas.



cowboy songs, nature, object-oriented ontology, capital, Honors College


González, C. (2022). Cowboy nature: A political ecology of songs from the American frontier (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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