Why Marx Was a Bad Driver: Alienation to Sensuality in the Anthropology of Automobility

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Contemporary automobilities research is characterised by a fundamental paradox-recognition of driving as a sensate experience alongside a tendency to emphasise the driver’s sensory disengagement from, rather than engagement with the bodily, social and environmental contexts with which s/he interacts. In this article, which builds on previous empirical work I have published, only now in a more theoretical and comparative directions, I undertake three tasks. I locate automobilities researches’ concern with the senses in its broader contexts of substantive enquiry-namely, the “Mobilities Paradigm” and the social scientific study of the “Senses”. I posit the theoretical basis of the representation of sensory disengagement in driving in automobilities research, specifically in post-war Marxian thought and its critique of Capitalist Modernity and concern with alienation. Lastly, I review three anthropological case studies that represent sensory engagement in driving, one from Palestine, one from Turkey and my own from Bosnia and Herzegovina. I go on to suggest that the approach they share, which is indicative of a growing trend towards the anthropological study of automobilities, is valuable in two ways. It is a corrective to the inappropriate representation of sensory disengagement that is a characteristic of most automobilities research. Also, through its ability to convey sensory engagement in driving, I argue that it provides important insights on the contemporary nature of enduring, but now increasingly mobile social phenomena such as, as in these particular cases sectarian enclosure, class segregation, and ethnic-national transition.

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Dawson, A. (2017) Why Marx Was a Bad Driver: Alienation to Sensuality in the Anthropology of Automobility. Advances in Anthropology, 7, 1-16. doi: 10.4236/aa.2017.71001.


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