The syllabus for this course will be a work in progress for the first five or so class sessions. Nine sessions have been planned and scheduled by the professor; another nine are planned but not yet scheduled; the remaining eight will be planned and scheduled collectively. The rationale for this is to make the course more participatory than usual, and also to give you some insight into the processes of choosing good resources, building a syllabus so that it fits together well, and leading class sessions so that they’re stimulating and memorable.


Wednesday, September 8: Overview and Introductions

Monday, September 13: Mobilities and modernities

Reading: Tim Creswell, “The Production of Mobilities” from On the Move:  Mobility in the Modern Western World

Wednesday, September 15: Cars and culture(s)

Reading: Harvey Molotch, “Driving” from City A-Z  

Marc Augé, “Roundabouts” from City A-Z  

Rudy Koshar, “Driving Cultures and the Meaning of Roads: Some Comparative Examples” from The World Beyond the Windshield: Roads and Landscapes in the United States and Europe (Mauch and Zeller, eds.)

Due by class time: “Auto-biography” assignment
Write a 3-5 reflective paper that focuses on some aspect of your own experiences of automobility, driving, and car culture(s). This assignment is meant to jump-start your own thinking about your relationship to cars; see if you can use it to deepen your reflections on some aspect of the subject.

Monday, September 20: The rise of car culture

Readings: James Flink, “Early Implementation in America” from The Car Culture

Wolfgang Sachs, “Independent as a Lord” from For Love of the Automobile: Looking Back into the History of Our Desires 

Wednesday, September 22: Political economies of the car

Reading: Matthew Paterson, “Automobile political economy” from Automobile Politics: Ecology and Cultural Political Economy

Due by class time: Proposal for your class session
Outline the class session that you will lead later in the semester. What reading(s) will you assign, and how will you make them available to the class? What strategies will you use in leading the class (discussion starters, audio-visual materials, illustrations, a guest speaker, an experiential activity, etc.)? Give your session a title that reflects its core point. What do you want people in the class to come away from the session having encountered or thought about?  If you are working with another student, how will you divide the work to be done and the leadership of the class session?


Monday, September 27: The politics of filling the tank

Reading: Ivan Illich, “Energy and Equity

We’ll also likely watch this video in class, on the “Twenty’s Plenty” movement.

Wednesday, September 29: Spaces (re)made for cars

Reading: John Jakle, “Landscapes Redesigned for the Automobile” from The Making of the American Landscape (Conzen, ed.)  


Monday, October 4: Ethnographies of automobility

Reading: David Fetterman, “A Wilderness Guide: Methods and Techniques”
from Ethnography Step by Step
Emerson, Fretz, and Shaw, “Fieldnotes in Ethnographic Research”
from Writing Ethnographic Fieldnotes

Note: These readings are in this single PDF file.  Ignore the third reading in the file (unless you have time and are interested!).

Wednesday, October 6:  Roads I – The Road as an Ethnographic Site

Reading: Keith Gessen, “Stuck


Monday, October 11 – No class

Wednesday, October 13Roads II – Disciplining Automobility

Reading: Clay McShane, “The Origins and Globalization of Traffic Control Signals

Guest: Amahl Bishara, Tufts University

BLOG POSTS THIS WEEK: Wen and Charlotte

Monday, October 18Protecting Bodies in Motion (led by Jake and Ethan)

Readings:  Mark Lamont, “An epidemic on wheels? Road safety, public health and injury politics in Africa”  

In addition to the short article above, have a look at the following short web sources, and read at least one of them in depth:

New Nissan nav helps out wrong way peachfuzz

Saab tech aims to keep drivers awake, focused

Is car safety technology replacing common sense?

Will pedestrian safety laws kill the beautiful car?

Traffic technology for a cooperative commute?

Volvo promises an injury-proof car by 2020

Homepage of the CVIS Project – Cooperative Vehicle-Infrastructure Systems

Ford unveils inflatable seatbelt

Homepage of Washington State “Smarter Highways” project

Also check out this photo of a Las Vegas crosswalk designed to improve traffic flow by removing pedestrians from the street.

Wednesday, October 20:  On Not Driving: The Parking Problem

Reading: Paul Goldberger, “Wheelhouse”, John Jakle and Keith Schulle, “Defining Terms,” “The Issue of Aesthetics,” and “The Rise of Machine Space” from Lots of Parking:  Land Use in a Car Culture


Monday, October 25  Taming the Car:  Sustainable Transportation Strategies

Reading:  Donald Shoup, “The 21st Century Parking Problem” from The High Cost of Free Parking

Optional readings:  “Technologies that Enable Congestion Pricing,” web article on San Francisco’s SFpark, US Dept of Transportation’s primer on congestion pricing, “Road Pricing Makes Sense” (Environmental Defense Fund)

Guest speaker:  Mark Chase, transportation planning consultant

Wednesday, October 27  Nacho Transportation:  Race and Access to Public Transit – Ginger and Erica

Reading:  Eric Mann, “Los Angeles bus riders derail the MTA” from Highway robbery: Transportation racism & new routes to equity;  Darrin Nordahl, “Taxicabs in New York City” from My Kind of Transit

BLOG POSTS THIS WEEK: Maggie and Ben Van D.

Monday, November 1  Changing the Status Quo – Ben Van D., Jerry, Ben R.

Readings:  Terry Jackson, “Mercedes Benz S600: The latest status symbol,” Barbara Righton, “Priced to Move!”   

Wednesday, November 3 Social Trends and Their Impact on the Evolution of Car Design – Amanda and Charlotte

Reading:  David Gartman, pp. 49-61 of Auto Opium:  A Social History of American Automobile Design

BLOG POSTS THIS WEEK: Amanda and Erica

Monday, November 8   Driving Desire:  Car Advertising

Reading: Fiona McLean, “SUV Advertising:  Constructing Identities and Practices

Car ad assignment will be due by class time for this session.

Wednesday, November 10 Representation of Cars – Wen and Maggie

Reading:  Reading: Andrew Taylor, “Character driven: Cars in literature

Assignment: Please also look for two examples of representation of cars in pop culture, and post them on the blog before the class. I.e. clips of movies/tv shows, songs, excerpts from literature, where the car is prominently featured. In these examples, car culture has to be central to the story/song.


Monday, November 15: The Car as Canvas

Reading:  Eric Dregni and Ruthann Godollei, Introduction and Chapter 1 of Road Show:  Art Cars and the Museum of the Streets (Note:  This is a very large file [7+ MB] because there are a lot of color images, so it may take time to download.  It will also drink up a lot of ink if you choose to print it, so you may just want to read it online.]

Film (viewed in class):  “Wild Wheels,” Harrod Blank

Wednesday, November 17 Place-making in a car culture:  The Battle Road Scenic Byway

Guest speaker:  Manisha Bewtra, Metropolitan Area Planning Council

Readings:  Have a quick look at Section 7 (“Intrinsic Qualities”) of the federal regulations designating National Scenic Byways, the Corridor Management Plan Vision and Goals on p. 2 of this file, and (if you have time) scan this presentation from a public meeting last week, which gives a sense of some of the evolving priorities and plans for the Byway (the answers to the questions were determined by attendees who were voting with handclickers).

Sunday, November 21:  Class field trip to Union Square

Meet at Davis Square in front of the Holland Street T exit in time to catch an 11:45 a.m. bus. We will aim to be back at Tufts by 3:30 p.m.  If you’re late and need to find us in Union Square, take the next inbound 87 bus to the square and either look around for us, call Cathy’s cell # (978-413-2312), or come to the Independent Restaurant and Bar where we’ll be eating brunch as of about 12:30.

Before the trip watch this 7-minute video tour of Union Square, think about what topic or site you might want to examine in your fieldwork, look over the syllabus for ideas about how to connect with the readings and theory, and glance at the map handouts you got in class on Wednesday.


Monday, November 22 – NO CLASS


BLOG POSTS THIS WEEK: Charlotte and Ethan

Monday, November 29  Emerging Markets:  India and China – Harry and Pete

Readings:  Peter Hessler, Country Driving:  A Journey through China from Farm to Factory (pp. 16-19, 26-33), Jacob Friedman “Back-up Buzzers, Road Craters, and Silly Slogans:  India’s Insane Car Culture,” and Somini Sengupta, “Priorities in India:  First buy a Car, then Learn to Drive

You should also scan (or read in depth, if you have time!) these three short articles:  “Creating a Car Culture in China,” “Three Guys Discuss the Chinese Car Bubble Theory,” and “China’s Unhealthy and Unhappy Car Culture

Wednesday, December 1: Fueling car culture

Reading: Lawrence Wright, “Lithium Dreams“;  also have a look (if you haven’t already) at Ben Rosen’s recent blog post on diesel vehicles, and watch this short video from the Post-Carbon Institute:


Monday, December 6:  Road film festival

Post a clip from a road film of your choice on the blog, and we’ll show and discuss excerpts from these during the class, led by Jake, Ben, and Ben.

Wednesday, December 8 Wrap up and debrief

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