What Is a Western?

An interview series exploring the Western genre in its many forms

Building on the Autry’s long-running film series, and on our diverse collections related to the Western, this interview series traverses all the frontiers and borderlands of the imagined West in popular culture. Hosted by associate curator Josh Garrett-Davis, author of What Is a Western? Region, Genre, Imagination, (winner of the "Outstanding Western Book” from the Center for the Study of the American West) the series asks experts to share their knowledge about the many sides to Western storytelling, imagery, and other media. We augment each interview with recommendations of media to watch, read, hear, and enjoy at home. Always seeking new stories, this series invites you to see the region and the genre in a whole new light.

Tropical Cowboys

Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Professor Ch. Didier Gondola about the story of the “tropical cowboys,” 1950s youth subcultures in the Belgian Congo who modeled themselves on cowboy movies that arrived from abroad.

View Interview


Picturing Indians

Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Liza Black (citizen of Cherokee Nation), author of Picturing Indians: Native Americans in Film, 1941–1960, about the work of Native Americans in Western movies, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

View Interview

Desert Terror

Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Brad Sykes, author of Terror in the Desert: Dark Cinema of the American Southwest, about the genre of Western horror and its use of the desert landscape. 

View Interview

Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews The Farmer and Adele about the impact of Western Swing on the Grand Ole Opry, and its continuing legacy in the Nashville music scene today.

View Interview

When Women Wrote Westerns

As part of a series exploring the significance of the Western genre and the ways in which the movies shape our understanding of the American West, Autry Curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews Professor Rosanne Welch about the women screenwriters of Hollywood and their contributions to the Western genre.

View Interview

No Man's Land

As part of a series exploring the significance of the Western genre and the ways in which the movies shape our understanding of the American West, Autry curator Josh Garrett-Davis interviews brothers Jake Allyn (co-writer and star) and Conor Allyn (director) about No Man’s Land, their contemporary Western that explores issues of immigration and violence in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.

View Interview