Accepted Paper:

Whereupon the Road to Erewhon  


Judith Okely (Oxford UniversityUniversity of Hull)
Patrick Laviolette (Tartu Univ. -- Masaryk Univ.)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on material that is both cross-generational and multi-sited, this paper explores some of hitchhiking's political paradoxes and material features. It does so through certain duo auto-ethnographic considerations for transport infrastructures, fieldwork intimacy and methodological liminality.

Paper long abstract:

Travel, adventure, exploration and freedom - not to mention place and nowhere - these are all fairly loaded, even at times quite abstract concepts. The practice of hitchhiking (which has captured the public imagination in many diverse ways for nearly a century now) provides a particular form of mobility whereby freely acquired journeys, solicited via one's thumb, begin to take shape. Just like any other means of automated transport, hitchhiking relies on road infrastructures. It is nonetheless anomalous in that hitchers rely on more different dimensions of such infrastructures than your average motorist, despite not necessarily contributing to, perhaps even resisting, their normative ideological core. Thumbing a ride is thus by its very character liminal, antistructural and peri-urban. Hitching overlaps with many facets of stochasticity, sousveillance, gender, trust and the uncanny, whilst still being a complex multi-modal form of 'carporeal' displacement. Moreover, this type of travel demonstrates telling features of non-places, placelessness, borderlessness and the stateless. In terms of interpersonal relations, potential problems and challenges can arise, especially when the hitchhiker(s) and driver have very different notions of state hegemonies or subversions. Bizarre, even dangerous misunderstandings may occur. Alternatively, such encounters may trigger crucial insights precisely because they take place in a state-free vacuum. Based on a recent collaboration in progress of duo-autoethnographic memories and fieldwork findings, this joint presentation will explore some of our own cross generational experiences with 'auto-stopping'. These are mainly drawn from our respective adventures in Europe (i.e., Britain, France, Benelux, Spain and Slovenia).

Panel P027
Materialising the Imagination: How People Make Ideas Manifest