Demolition Derby, Working-Class Identity, and Capitalist Geographies
Keywords:Critical ethnography, working-class culture, working-class identity, demolition derby, Northwest Arkansas, precarity, critical geography, Marxist geography
In order to understand the formations of identities within a working-class population, this paper draws on ethnographic field research with participants and fans of demolition derby competitions in two regions of Arkansas. It attempts what Arjun Appadurai calls a ‘genealogical’ reading to discover within semiotic evidence foreclosures of identity that challenge the power of capitalist fixation and movement of value within and through these regions. The paper uses the term ‘material integrity’ to describe how participants and fans of demolition derby understand the economic dynamics in which they participate. In Northwest Arkansas, a region characterized by the fixation of capital, class is ‘read down’ by nominating perceived lower classes, but in White County, Arkansas, a region with little fixed capital, class is ‘read up.’ As a ground-up spectacle and performance, demolition derby reveals the value of material integrity as an integral aspect of a working-class identity and provides some evidence of what Don Mitchell calls ‘working-class geographies’ and Ben Rogaly’s ‘non-elite cosmopolitanism.’
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