Southern Illinois University Press


Andrew Gibb, currently assistant professor of theater history, theory, and criticism at Texas Tech University, offers an important revision of modern understandings of the U.S. West, particularly California. “Despite the individualist ideology that valorizes the working-class Anglos frontiersman,” Gibb asserts, “the truth is that ever since he began to arrive in the West, he had led a life dominated by local oligarchs (1). As Anglos arrived in California, they discovered a uniquely californio (Mexican Californian) system of social organization. This book draws heavily on theory, particularly the idea of performance, to demonstrate how public events both celebrate and proclaim the power of the oligarchy. This allows the author to focus on cooperation (theater, after all, is collaborative) and deemphasize a more traditional conflict paradigm. Thus, the book is intimately concerned with the development of accommodation and acculturation in California. However, unlike people in other regions of the Americas, californios did not acculturate to Anglo culture; Anglos accepted californio behaviors. In sum, this is the story of how “californios performatively fashioned a unique regional tradition of oligarchic rule into which they invited successive waves of immigrant and conquering Anglo elites” (23).