Accepted paper:

Roadside ethnography


Patrick Laviolette (LIAS Leicester UCL)

Paper short abstract:

Patience, I tell myself yet again. Someone will eventually stop... they usually do, right? 'Cause this is a waiting game. A game in which to wait, where all the travellers trust fate. This is a waiting game. And I might be waiting long, but I won't be without song. No I'll not, be without song.

Paper long abstract:

As a social statement that applauds randomness and adventure, an activity which is effectively an instantiation of pure trusting, hitchhiking inverts the logic of succumbing to the cultures of fear, individualism and neoliberalism. It stands as a retro survivor to the counter-culture movements of the 1960s and 70s. As such a residue, it should carry on questioning the status quo, maintaining its critical, marginal, liminal edges by continuing to challenge social dogmas.

Anthropology is perhaps one of the better places from which to examine hitchhiking for a number of methodological and conceptual reasons. Indeed, this discipline has traditionally been concerned with societies and behaviours that are not just eccentric, but which are often heading towards extinction, or a radical transformation that effectively signifies the end of their authenticity as unique topics worthy of investigation for their own sake. If one of our tasks has been to rescue some cultural meaning from activities, events, peoples and practices that are disappearing, then it is certainly time for a concerted anthropology of hitchhiking to manifest itself in more than student projects. It is quite fascinating to note that there have been dozens of English language BA and MA dissertations on this practice and yet still few completed doctorates. Such a sustained project has consistently been shun by researchers, supervisors, institutions and funding bodies. The present paper provides some reasons as to why this has been the case.

Keywords: auto-stop/hitchhiking, waiting, auto-ethnography, placelessness.

panel D01
Streetscapes: affective encounters between People and Things