PhD dissertation available here.
This is an investigation of the enthusiasm, scenes and cultural industry of contemporary modified-car culture in Australia, based on fieldwork research with an online-based car club — where I participated as an enthusiast — and archival research of 30 years of enthusiast magazines and other texts. I develop a post-Kantian event-based conception of enthusiasm by drawing on the previous scholarship on modified-car culture read through post-structuralist theories of the ‘event’ and ‘affect’. The oeuvre of Gilles Deleuze is a key theoretical influence on this work, which also draws on the historical method and philosophy of Michel Foucault, the practical social theory of Pierre Bourdieu, and develops Theodor Adorno’s work on the cultural industry by examining its biopolitical dimension.
Enthusiasm is often thought of as a charismatic relation between the enthusiast subject and the enthusiast object modified cars. But here, enthusiasm is understood as the event of a multiplicity of affects that exists on transversal scales from the personal to the scene and beyond. I argue that the charismatic relation of enthusiasm is a reduction that enables the enthusiasm of a given scene to become a resource for cultural industries servicing that scene.
The event of enthusiasm is defined by the affects that circulate across bodies and which are actualised in the capacities of enthusiasts, the objects engaged with, and practices performed. The scene is defined by the character of the cultural events which populate it and the enthusiasts who participate in the events. The cultural events include cruising, working on cars, racing, showing, and consuming or participating in the enthusiast media. I draw on my fieldwork to examine the affective composition of some of these events. Transformations to the cultural identity of scenes and enthusiasms correlate with broader social changes exemplified by the processes of globalisation. The event of enthusiasm is repeated in different ways that make connections between the scales of the subjectively experienced affects of cultural events to the global-level transformations of the automotive industry and scene.
The cultural industries and social institutions enable the enthusiasm by investing in the infrastructure of the scene and facilitating the existence of cultural events through sponsorship or practical support. Archival research on enthusiast magazines allows me to map the transformations to the composition of power relations (dispositif) between the state (governmental regulatory bodies), social institutions (online and offline car clubs, and federations), enthusiast cultural industries (magazines, event promoters, and later importers) and different populations of enthusiasts (from interested public to highly skilled and devoted enthusiasts). The periods roughly delineated include the militancy of street rodding era (the 1970s), the spectacle of street machining era (1980s through to the present), and the immanent online-sociality of the import era (mid-1990s through to the present). The power relations of the three eras of contemporary modified-car culture in Australia are contrasted and I argue that the current dominant set of relations involve spectacular cultural events.
In the context of 1980s street machining, I examine the way ‘elite’ level vehicles built by highly skilled enthusiasts following spectacular ‘head turning’ styles of modification are used by event promoters and magazines to collectively individuate a population of the interested public. The ‘head turner’ is a singularity that organises the social spaces of the street and car shows and the discursive space of magazines. I argue that the emergent synergistic relation between magazines and event promoters is organised around the capacity of ‘head turners’ to mediate relations between different populations of enthusiasts so that enthusiasm is reduced to a charismatic relation and cultural events become spectacular.
- Structure of the Dissertation
Chapter 1 Events of Enthusiasm
- Bathurst Cruise
- Kant’s Enthusiasm
- Stupid Shit
- Affect versus Drive(r)s
- Hot Lap
- The Event of Enthusiasm
Chapter 2 ‘Know How’
- The Belt Part 1
- The Belt Part 2
- The Belt Part 3
- The Serial Problematic Contiguity of Enthusiasm
- ‘Know How’ of the Scene
Chapter 3 The Scene and Dispositif of Street Rodding
- Street Rods
- Modified Vehicle
- Classic Customs (or Street Machines?)
- From Statements to Power Relations
- Black Banning and the Sanctioned Event
Chapter 4 Street Machining: the ASMF and Summernats
- The Australian Street Machine Federation
- Forgotten Histories
- Chic Henry: Traitor or Entrepreneur?
Chapter 5 Street Machining Magazines and Technology
- Supercar Scare
- Early Articulations of the Street Machine
- The Problematic of Performance in Early Street Machine Magazine
- V8’s ’till ’98
- Head Turners
Chapter 6 Enthusiasm as a Resource
- The Tension between Active and Passive Enthusiasm
- Biopolitics of Charisma
- From Cultural Commodities to Cultural Events
- Architecture of the Spectacle
Chapter 7 ‘Fast Fours’ and the Emergence of New Enthusiasms
- Street Machining Discourse and Fast Fours
- Hi Tech Fast Fours
- The Rise of the Imports
- Post-V8 Street Machining and the Year of the Pump
Chapter 8 Politics of Valorisation and Online Sociality
- The Last Ride: Muscle Cars and Rice Burners
- Complexities of the Politics of Valorisation
- Autosalon and the Spectacle of Import Culture
- Fordmods: Cultural Events and Online Sociality
Conclusion: Many Enthusiasms