Modified : cars, culture and event mechanics

by Glen R. Fuller

Institution: University of Western Sydney
Department: Centre for Cultural Research
Degree: PhD
Year: 2007
Keywords: automobiles; customizing; Australia; social aspects; enthusiasm; popular culture
Record ID: 1037973
Full text PDF: http://handle.uws.edu.au:8081/1959.7/12284


This is an investigation of the enthusiasm, scenes and cultural industry of contemporary modified-car culture in Australia, based on fieldwork research with an online-based car club – where I participated as an enthusiast – and archival research of 30 years of enthusiast magazines and other texts. I develop a post-Kantian event-based conception of enthusiasm by drawing on the previous scholarship on modified-car culture read through post-structuralist theories of the ‘event’ and ‘affect’. The oeuvre of Gilles Deleuze is a key theoretical influence on this work, which also draws on the historical method and philosophy of Michel Foucault, the practical social theory of Pierre Bourdieu, and develops Theodor Adorno’s work on the cultural industry by examining its biopolitical dimension. Enthusiasm is often thought of as a charismatic relation between the enthusiast subject and the enthusiast object modified cars. But here, enthusiasm is understood as the event of a multiplicity of affects that exists on transversal scales from the personal to the scene and beyond. I argue that the charismatic relation of enthusiasm is a reduction that enables the enthusiasm of a given scene to become a resource for cultural industries servicing that scene. The event of enthusiasm is defined by the affects that circulate across bodies and which are actualised in the capacities of enthusiasts, the objects engaged with, and practices performed. The scene is defined by the character of the cultural events which populate it and the enthusiasts who participate in the events. The cultural events include cruising, working on cars, racing, showing, and consuming or participating in the enthusiast media. I draw on my fieldwork to examine the affective composition of some of these events. Transformations to the cultural identity of scenes and enthusiasms correlate with broader social changes exemplified by the processes of globalisation. The event of enthusiasm is repeated in different ways that make connections between the scales of the subjectively experienced affects of cultural events to the global-level transformations of the automotive industry and scene. The cultural industries and social institutions enable the enthusiasm by investing in the infrastructure of the scene and facilitating the existence of cultural events through sponsorship or practical support. Archival research on enthusiast magazines allows me to map the transformations to the composition of power relations (dispositif) between the state (governmental regulatory bodies), social institutions (online and offline car clubs, and federations), enthusiast cultural industries (magazines, event promoters, and later importers) and different populations of enthusiasts (from interested public to highly skilled and devoted enthusiasts). The periods roughly delineated include the militancy of street rodding era (the 1970s), the spectacle of street machining era (1980s through to the present), and the immanent online-sociality of the import era (mid-1990s through to the present). The…