Publication Date

April 2019

Advisor(s)

Elizabeth Traube

Major

Anthropology

Language

English (United States)

Abstract

My thesis explores the ways in which drivers in Los Angeles experience and understand the city within its car-centric landscape. Through interviews, participant observation, and archival research I explore how some Angelenos navigate this city of extremes and constant contradictions. I also examine the practice of driving through the most public of spaces in the city: the freeway. What does it mean to understand the freeway as public space when access to a car is required to participate in it? While the discourse on automobile dependency is currently shifting and driving as we know it is on the cusp of a shift (automated cars, development of public transportation, ride-sharing services, and electrical scooters), I focus on conceptions and practices of driving that have been shaping Angelenos' lives since the construction of the first freeway in the 1940s. How do Angelenos experience their city from the privatized mobile space of the car? Is the freeway the public space of the city? I also reflect on the difficulty of doing ethnographic research on mobile subjects and discuss the ways I devised to navigate this unusual field site.

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