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Drive Time: A Sensory History of Car Cultures from 1945 to 1990 in Los Angeles

  • Author(s): Chesney, Peter Sebastian
  • Advisor(s): Avila, Eric
  • et al.

This project began with questions about the tremendous amount of time those in Los Angeles have spent inside their automobiles. “Drive Time” argues for the significance of car cultures as sites where drivers articulated numerous varieties of social difference, which have included sexual, racial, moral, and spatial hierarchies. Sensory studies has proven a helpful methodology for work about undocumented uses of technology, for drivers left traces of their hidden activities and personal attitudes all over their vehicles and along roadside strips in the half-century after the Second World War. “Drive Time” presents these findings in a series of twelve case studies of McDonald’s, of the Rose Parade, of Rebel Without a Cause, of Pop Art, of the Beach Boys, of the 1965 Watts Rebellion, of former Governor Ronald Reagan’s talk radio show, of Cheech & Chong, of the Hillside Strangler attacks, of the Thomas Guide, of taco trucks, and of drive-by shootings. Readers will find this approach involves polysensory descriptions of taste, touch, smell, sight, and sound. The result is a rereading of the centrality of the automobile to the forming of the senses - as well as their reformation - in Los Angeles’s motorist monoculture.

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