Cars In/Of Culture: Mobility, Materiality, Representation
Country: Czech Republic
Abstr. due: 04.12.2015
Dates: 08.05.16 — 10.05.16
Area Of Sciences: Cultural science;
Organizing comittee e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
”[A]part from our own deaths, the car crash is probably the most dramatic event in our lives, and in many cases the two will coincide,” remarked J. G. Ballard in 1969, somehow raining on the turn-of-the-decade’s consumerist parade and exposing the uncanny potential of an all-too-familiar object: the motor car. No longer seen exclusively as a status symbol, a suburban commuter’s necessity or an aesthetically intricate object of teenage desires, the automobile suddenly revealed its dark side, not only that of a life-style giver but also of a life-span taker.
Yet, with hindsight, we know today that cars are much more complex entities than even their most sophisticated mechanics would suggest. They have invaded our bedroom walls and our driveways, they sneak into our chats providing stories of glory and shame, they have turned into powerful symbols of environmental decay and of dreamt-of prosperity, they have changed the architecture of our towns and discretely nested themselves in our escapist dreams of hitting the open road. Once domesticated, they become a home out of home, a familiarized workplace, a locus of highway melancholy, traffic-jam anger and intimate conversations, they talk to us in a language of their own.
Having marked their presence in almost every sphere of life, regardless of one’s geographical location, political views, gender, ethnic background, sexual preferences, religion, social positioning, etc., it is perhaps surprising that the automotive environments and the ensuing cultures of contemporary mobility have been given a rather modest theoretical reflection. After all, the automobile in its entirety not only invites numerous interdisciplinary approaches, but first of all, it constitutes an interdisciplinary object per se, a palpable prism overlooking a variety of social, environmental, technical and even political landscapes. Landscapes, which seem to have been either bypassed in contemporary cultural discourses, or, at best, approached from isolated perspectives, reducing the motor vehicle to a tool useful in demonstrating other social phenomena but hardly ever deserving sufficient attention in itself.
And much is at stake in the realm of automobility. As silent partners of our daily routines, cars often decide about our social positioning, offering a variety of identity-forming choices, which inevitably classify us along the lines of communal hierarchies. Motoring subcultures, either challenging or solidifying neoliberal expectations, form new leisure communities. Cinematic and TV representations of cars and car cultures fill up a significant portion of our media horizon eventually feeding on and inspiring our motoring dreams and fears. And somehow underneath the globalized imagery, cars still form part of our national history and therefore shape our sense of national identity.
Hence, bearing in mind both the need to fill up the critical gap, as well as to explore the interdisciplinary multitude of possible contexts and approaches towards motoring and mobility in general, we welcome presentations, papers, reports, performances, work-in-progress and workshops from all academic and non-academic disciplines, whose subject-areas may include but are by no means limited to the following topics:
• Cultures (and subcultures) of Automobility
• Cars and Neoliberal Paradigms (citizenship, consumerism, pro-environmental awareness)
• Cinematic/Literary Representations (technophilia, technophobia, escapism, life-style)
• Cars in Popular Media (Top Gear cultural impact, video games, car-based TV shows, popular advertising, celebrity culture)
• Motoring Culture and National/Individual Identity
• Cars and Gender Identity/Machismo Culture
• Car Cultures and the Colonial Legacy
• Car Semiotics/Aesthetics/Art
• Accident Culture/Risk Society
• Automotive Cultures and the Urban Space
• Cars and Material Culture/New Materialism
• Car Cultures and/in Totalitarian Regimes
• Highway Culture and Redefined Landscapes
• Social Location of Car Travel
• Automobility and the Environment
The Project welcomes critical evaluations and analyses from two major groups of prospective participants. The first one includes representatives of almost all fields of contemporary humanities including cultural and literary theorists, psychologist, psychotherapists, sociologist, architects, urban studies specialists, art and media critics, historians and political science specialists. Still, bearing in mind the Project’s multi-disciplinary dimension, the participants are by no means expected to have an academic background. Hence, the second group may embrace specialists, enthusiasts and practitioners of any social or technical activity related to, informed by or connected with various embodiments of motoring cultures and as such include architects, journalists, authors, environmentalists, NGO members, infrastructure specialists, urban designers, industrial designers, representatives of car industry, traffic management specialist and members of related business environments.