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‘Excesses’ of modernity: mundane mobilities, politics, and the remaking of the urban

Stefanelli, Alice

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Cars are celebrated as the technical and symbolic epitome of modernity but are also heavily implicated in the making of climate change, imbricated within a seemingly all-powerful global capitalist system. What can an anthropological analysis of traffic in urban areas tell us about the enduring strength of this system? While cars in Beirut are both desired and necessary to move about, strong feelings of frustration are taking shape among residents and commuters who face the ever-congested roads of the capital city daily. This mounting frustration indexes an emerging ‘structure of feeling’ towards everyday automobility that has created explicit and concrete desire for alternative mobilities, particularly public transport, which scholars of automobility had pronounced dead. In this light, while cars remain objects of desire, in Beirut as elsewhere, an ‘excess’ of automobility – of modernity, we might say – is in fact weakening the dominance of cars, exposing a potential brittleness previously undetected. Acknowledging this process forces us to reconsider our modernist assumptions about the inevitable predominance of cars and offers hope for alternative mobility futures.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 29, 2021
Online Publication Date May 12, 2021
Publication Date 2021-11
Deposit Date Mar 26, 2021
Publicly Available Date Oct 6, 2021
Journal Social Anthropology
Print ISSN 0964-0282
Publisher Berghahn Journals
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 29
Issue 4
Pages 1049-1063
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Copyright Statement
© 2021 The Authors. Social Anthropology published by Wiley Periodicals LLC on behalf of European Association of Social Anthropologists.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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