Conservative Resistance: U.S. Auto-fans’ Re-making of Identities and 50s Car Culture in the Recent Economy
This paper discusses the findings of an ethnographic and life-history study that investigated those stories of several middle-aged white American auto-fans who ran a church and a car club together from 1999 to 2008. This research found that while being situated in the 2000s America, impacted by global economic restructuring, ordinary people could carry out resistant cultural practices against an unjust class structure, which did not lead to a progressive social transformation—an argument contrary to cultural studies scholars’—but a conservative resistance. These practices demonstrated the reinforcement of conservatism, the reproduction of gender structure, and the denegation of secularism. This research made such an argument because of the following reasons: although these subjects turned to those manual practices of automobile culture in order to form their masculine and working-class identities and restore their male honor, damaged by the global economy and the class structure, they were not led to a dead end or an unsettled life trajectory, as participants of rebellious working-class car cultures often did. Rather, these male research participants drew on conservative evangelical Christians’ symbolic strategy to transmute meaning of the 1950s car culture from a rebellious culture to a family-oriented one, and those Christians’ traditional family values to reconcile the conflict between family responsibility and automobile interest. These men practiced their sense of being family-oriented through organizing auto-related leisure activities for their families. They also reconsidered as a money saving strategy and thus, family-oriented (and duplicated) the 1950s car culture’s Do-It-Yourself auto-modification practices. Such reconciliation made those women around them willingly accept their family-oriented and still sexist, exclusive, culture, and thus the men’s ascendancy, because for those women their men were better than other auto-fans of more aggressive car cultures. In the end, these men identified themselves as family-oriented and autoenthusiastic Christians.