Mobility without Mayhem by Jeremy Packer
Safety, Cars, and Citizenship

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While Americans prize the ability to get behind the wheel and hit the open road, they have not always agreed on what constitutes safe, decorous driving or who is capable of it. Mobility without Mayhem is a lively cultural history of America’s fear of and fascination with driving, from the mid-twentieth century to the present. Jeremy Packer analyzes how driving has been understood by experts, imagined by citizens, regulated by traffic laws, governed through education and propaganda, and represented in films, television, magazines, and newspapers. Whether considering motorcycles as symbols of rebellion and angst, or the role of CB radio in regulating driving and in truckers’ evasions of those regulations, Packer shows that ideas about safe versus risky driving often have had less to do with real dangers than with drivers’ identities.

Packer focuses on cultural figures that have been singled out as particularly dangerous. Women drivers, hot-rodders, bikers, hitchhikers, truckers, those who “drive while black,” and road ragers have all been targets of fear. As Packer debunks claims about the dangers posed by each figure, he exposes biases against marginalized populations, anxieties about social change, and commercial and political desires to profit by fomenting fear. Certain populations have been labeled as dangerous or deviant, he argues, to legitimize monitoring and regulation and, ultimately, to curtail access to automotive mobility. Packer reveals how the boundary between personal freedom and social constraint is continually renegotiated in discussions about safe, proper driving.


About Jeremy Packer

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Jeremy Packer is Associate Professor of Communication and a faculty member in the Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media graduate program and the Science, Technology, and Society program at North Carolina State University. He is a coeditor of Foucault, Cultural Studies, and Governmentality and Thinking with James Carey: Essays on Communications, Transportation, History.
Published February 5, 2008 by Duke University Press Books. 349 pages
Genres: History, Political & Social Sciences, Professional & Technical. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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In his dense cultural history of the car in post-WWII society, Packer logically distills the complex relationship between Americans, their automobiles and their love and fear of driving.

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Project MUSE

More precision about the exact nature of mobile risks, where they occurred, in what number, and to/by what populations, would have helped to counter the “counterstatistical gerrymandering” that safety officials employed (p.

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