Diverse Driving Emotions

Exploring Chinese Migrants’ Mobilities in a Car-Dependent City

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Abstract

In the industrialized West, cars are considered an essential part of everyday life. Their dominance is underpinned by the challenges of managing complex, geographically stretched daily routines. Drivers’ emotional and embodied relationships with automobiles also help to explain why car cultures are difficult to disrupt. This article foregrounds ethnic diversity to complicate notions of a “love affair” with the car. We report on the mobilities of fourteen Chinese migrants living in Sydney, Australia—many of whom described embodied dispositions against the car, influenced by their life histories. Their emotional responses to cars and driving, shaped by transport norms and infrastructures in their places of origin, ranged from pragmatism and ambivalence to fear and hostility. The lived experiences of these migrants show that multiple cultures of mobility coexist, even in ostensibly car-dependent societies. Migrants’ life histories and contemporary practices provide an opportunity to reflection fissures in the logic of automobility.

Contributor Notes

Sophie-May Kerr is a PhD student in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Her research interests include ethnic diversity and low-carbon mobilities and the lived experiences of families with children living in apartments, sharing materials and space. Sophie-May’s research seeks to explore social and environmental transformations that address high-carbon and space-intensive urban lifestyles. E-mail: smk534@uowmail.edu.au

Natascha Klocker is Senior Lecturer in the School of Geography and Sustainable Communities at the University of Wollongong, Australia. Natascha’s research seeks to foreground the contributions of diverse migrant groups to environmental thinking—and practice—in Australia. Her central argument is that environmental thinking urgently needs to be more open to the diverse cultural resources that migrants bring. E-mail: natascha_klocker@uow.edu.au

Gordon Waitt is Head of School and a Professor in the School of Geography and Sustainable Community at the University of Wollongong, Australia. His research draws upon critical human geography perspectives to address social inequalities. His current projects address the inequalities of domestic energy, everyday mobilities, and regional cities. E-mail: gwaitt@uow.edu.au