Automobility and the geographies of the car

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The motor car or automobile has had a profound impact on global mobility, settlement patterns, the global economy, and the environment. Transport policy-makers and environmentalists highlight the unsustainable nature of contemporary petrol-car usage, yet despite widespread calls to rethink contemporary automobility and move towards more sustainable forms of public and private travel, it is only in recent years that social scientists have started to examine the social and cultural geography of the motor car, driving and the spaces of the street, road and motorway in any depth. In this article, I outline some of the research which has been undertaken on the geographies and sociologies of the spaces and practices of driving, focusing in particular on the UK. First, the article outlines the major impact the motor car has had on the geographies of road space. It examines how motor roads have shaped our experience of space and place, and outlines studies of their design, inhabitation, and regulation. Second, this article discusses embodied inhabitations of the spaces of the car: how motor cars have been consumed; how they have shaped our embodied apprehensions of our surroundings; and how they facilitate social and cultural relations. Finally, this article concludes by examining the innovative methods which are increasingly being utilised and developed by social scientists to explore the socialities of automotive spaces.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)586-599
Number of pages14
JournalGeography Compass
Issue number2
Early online date27 Feb 2009
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2009


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