Motorcycle as Figuration Three Stages of Motorcycling Culture in Romania • Lecturer Gabriel Jderu PhD, firstname.lastname@example.org • Department of Sociology • Faculty of Sociology and Social Work • University of Bucharest This work was supported by CNCSIS-UEFISCSU, project number PN II-RU 68/2010, Modernity and Mobility in Romania: Motorcycle, Body and Emotions of Automobility.
What’s a bike got to do with sociology? • “[…] in this country, where the roads are so impracticable, where the motorcyclists are so threatened by our peasants’ narrow-mindedness and ill will, and where they risk to trip over and fall pray to the packs of almost feral dogs swarming the villages — in this country, the motorcycle seems preposterous. (Automobile Magazine, Nr. 13, January 1907, p. 17.) • S_I bought my first bike when I was in vocational school. There were some boys in my town who had motorcycles and they met weekly at the downtown pastry shop. My father was against buying it, but my mom helped me with some money and I bought it. Not everyone had a car then, as they do now. I used to ride my bike everyday to get to the factory. I had a lot of motorbikes… but I gave it up when I joined the Police force. It didn’t sit well with my uniform. • M_What do you mean? • S_Well, you coulnd’t be a policeman and look like a bum. • M_So how come you returned to the bike, after so much time? • M_Not quite sure... I just saw all these young guys bringing over bikes from Italy. I simply couldn’t resist. (S., policeman, age 52, 2009) • K_ My first motorbike was a Mobra and I was really pleased with it. That is, until I saw myself in the windows of the buildings on Victoria Street, just after the '90s. When I saw how pitiful I looked, a big guy on a tiny Mobra, I said to myself I had to get rid of the Mobra. Then I changed my bike a second time, with an Ij, when my wife, a high school student at the time, told me: “I won’t see you again, not with that much dirt under your nails!” (D., engineer, age 42, 2010)
The using of the motorcycle could be regarded as “figuration” (Elias, 1939/2005; 1970)or as an expressions of various relations of interdependence among certain categories of individuals, in a historically determined epoch. • Itis a typical feature of the modern society that sociality tends to entail mobility (Urry, 2000/2001, 2007/2010; Miller, Ed., 2000; Sheller and Urry, Eds., 2004; Kellerman, 2006; Sheller and Urry, Eds., 2006, Peters, 2006). • This phenomenon will be found in the Romanian society, too. It has emergedat the beginning 20th century, a moment when “the system of mobility” (Urry, 2007/2010) began to take shape. • The assumption of this analysis: Technologies of mobility do not function in a social vacuum;rather, they are integrated in the overall system of social symbols and, in turn, they modify it.
I intend to examine the implications that occur within the web of social relations, as a result of the appearance of a new technology of mobility, i.e., the motorcycle. • Metodology • Research question: In what way does the use of the motorcycle, as a technological means of mobility, reproduce and produce the social reality? • Methods used: document analysses and qualitative surveys • Types of sources: • a) articles published in autmotive sources (1906-2010); • b) articles published in other sources; • c) published research on the history of technology; • c) qualitative interviews with motorcyclists; narratives.
Three distinct stages of the motorcycle use, each with its own specific social logic: • Automobility as an indicator of “class distinction” (Bourdieu, 1984; Gartman, 2005), from the beginning of the 20th Century to the end of the 40s; • The democratization of mobility through motorcycle, from the 1950s to 1989; • The motorcycle as identity, from the 1990s to the present.
Automobility as an indicator of “class distinction” The beginning of the 20th century – 1945. The rationale of social differentiation through technological consumption • Body and automobility. Automobility as a wish (Bergns, 1996/2006). The auto-mobile body as a “radical alterity” (Boia, 2004) • - “the cult of the machine” (Bredekamp, 2007) • - automobility and the spread of socialist ideas • Automobility as the antithesis to the immobity of lower and ‘savage’ clasesses (peasant) • Family of a Notary Public on a day trip whith their Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Chișinău, România 1930
Automobility as a system (Urry, 2007/2010) – automobility as the objectivisation of distincition when lacking a system of mobility. • - the mechanical motorcyclist; • - auto-mobility without roads . • The motorcycle as a mobility technology affordable to the less affluent; • Sport, distinction, auto-mobility — about the motocycle sport; • Carnival auto-mobilitaty — fairs and motorcycles; • Leisure and the motorcycle — going to the countryside; • Gender and automobility.
II. The motorcycle and the democratization of mobility — from the 50s to 1989 — the rationale of mass access to mobility • The appearance of the workers’ sporting clubs (“Steaua,” 1947); • Motorcycle races ; • The appearance of the motorcycle in the ex-communist countries; • The family of a mechanic; • The motorcycle — a means of mobility for the working class (Carpați, Mobra).
III. The motorcycle as an identity project. A social career as a motorcyclist. From 1990s to the present. The rationale of the affiliation. The re-invention of an identity • The social career of the motorcyclist (adapted from Matza’s theory, 1969) • Affinity • Affiliation • Significance • Diversification of categories — categories of motorcyclists with distinctive mobility ideologies: • Speed motorcycles – the speed; • Enduro motorcycles – the nature; • Cruser/chopper motorcycles – the body; • Touring motorcycles – the journeys; • Classical motorcycles – the („classy”) distinction; • Communist motorcycles — the mechanical; • The motorcycles of the middle class gentrification (Hallon si Cohen, 2006).
Conclusions • The sociogenesis approach allows us to better understand how a mobility career it is developed. • The meaning of automobility differs from past to the present because the yesterday’s web of interdependence between certain categories of individuals differs from today’s. • I defined three stages of motorcycling culture in Romania: • Motorcycle as an indicator of “class distinction” - the beginning of the 20th century – 1945; • The motorcycle as working class figuration— from the 1950s 1989 — the rationale of mass access to mobility; • The motorcycle as an identity project. A social career as a motorcyclist, from the 1990s to the present. Thank you!