Mobility without Mayhem - Safety, Cars, and Citizenship

Packer, Jeremy

Published by Duke Univ
ISBN 10: 0822339528 / ISBN 13: 9780822339526
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Synopsis: While Americans prize the ability to get behind the wheel and hit the open road, they have not always agreed on what constitutes safe, decorous driving or who is capable of it. Mobility without Mayhem is a lively cultural history of America’s fear of and fascination with driving, from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Jeremy Packer analyzes how driving has been understood by experts, imagined by citizens, regulated by traffic laws, governed through education and propaganda, and represented in films, television, magazines, and newspapers. Whether considering motorcycles as symbols of rebellion and angst, or the role of CB radio in regulating driving and in truckers’ evasions of those regulations, Packer shows that ideas about safe versus risky driving often have had less to do with real dangers than with drivers’ identities.

Packer focuses on cultural figures that have been singled out as particularly dangerous. Women drivers, hot-rodders, bikers, hitchhikers, truckers, those who “drive while black,” and road ragers have all been targets of fear. As Packer debunks claims about the dangers posed by each figure, he exposes biases against marginalized populations, anxieties about social change, and commercial and political desires to profit by fomenting fear. Certain populations have been labeled as dangerous or deviant, he argues, to legitimize monitoring and regulation and, ultimately, to curtail access to automotive mobility. Packer reveals how the boundary between personal freedom and social constraint is continually renegotiated in discussions about safe, proper driving.

From the Publisher: "For all that the United States trumpets individualism, it is a nation of obedience--to church, kin, commodity, conquest, and, perhaps above all, car. Jeremy Packer takes us along a wild but always disciplined drive in the fast lane of cultural studies."--Toby Miller, author of The Well-Tempered Self: Citizenship, Culture, and the Postmodern Subject

"Jeremy Packer has scoured the byways of American history and media to bring back this telling account of how mobility is governed. Along the way, he deepens our understanding of how a culture of individualism, risk, and competitiveness is in fact organized and controlled--by inculcating self-discipline in the name of safety. Freedom is constrained by security, self-expression by surveillance; the American Dream fizzles out in `road rage.' What does this tell us about contemporary America?"--John Hartley, author of Television Truths: Forms of Knowledge in Popular Culture

"Engaging with lively debates in contemporary cultural studies, including critical geography, technological and social history, and popular culture studies, Jeremy Packer denaturalizes the common-sense assumptions that inform our culture's conceptions of drivers and driving."--Jeffrey Sconce, editor of Sleaze Artists: Cinema at the Margins of Taste, Style, and Politics

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Title: Mobility without Mayhem - Safety, Cars, and ...
Publisher: Duke Univ
Book Condition: BRAND NEW

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