Blue-collar creativity: reframing custom-car culture in the imperilled industrial city
This paper hitches a ride with young car enthusiasts to explore how their vehicles catalyse a unique form of vernacular creativity, in a seemingly imperilled industrial city setting. While television and print media regularly demonise young drivers for street racing and ‘hoon’ behaviour, this paper purposely adopts a different perspective, on circuits of production and qualitative aspects of the urban custom-car design scene that constitute forms of vernacular creativity. Beyond moral panics little is known about movements, networks, and linkages between custom cars, young enthusiasts, and urban spaces from which their activities emerge. Utilising responsive, in-depth ethnographic methods in Wollongong, Australia, this paper interprets custom-car design as vernacular creativity, valued by young people and located across unassuming and unheralded urban spaces. The possibility that custom-car designers possess skills that are assets for ‘blue-collar’ industrial cities is contrasted against a backdrop of wider discourses depicting such cities as economically vulnerable, as ‘victims’ of restructuring—and even ‘uncreative’. Insights relevant to future research on the politics of planning, creative industries, and class identities are also discussed.
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