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Cultural representations of the automobile: as development, destruction and as a love affair

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Cultural representations of the automobile: as development, destruction and as a love affair

Mohammad Amin Ghaneirad
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The automobile has a short cultural history in the Iranian life-style, yet within this short period the automobile has been transformed from a rare, aristocratic and luxury good into a mass consumer commodity. The automobile is present in our lives and poses itself not only as a metallic appearance but as a conceptual entity, that is, as a sign or symbol. In contemporary life, concepts and phenomena such as friendship, love, family, travel, work, recreation, school, university, leisure, street, city, roadsthese are all tied up with signs of cars. The sound of the machine has become the background noise of our life and sometimes its close ties with common kinds of pollution such as those of air and noise, environmental damage, accidents resulting in injuries or deaths, makes us to worry and to compromise our health and vitality. The objective of this paper is to set forth perspectives advanced by cultural studies and cultural sociology as well as those came about via empirical assessment of the objects known as cars seen together as a cultural phenomenon in the Iranian everyday life. The empirical content of the paper is provided through documentary study of contemporary literary and historical works and sometimes by observation and noting. The paper, upon reviewing certain theoretical perspectives, deals firstly with the emergence of unfamiliar phenomenon of the automobile in the Iranian life and then tackles representations of the Iranian contradictory experiences with car, on the one hand, representing hope, liberation and development and on the other hand as the symbol of destruction and deterioration-as these are represented in the literary texts. In the study, the cultural consumption of the car and its ties with everyday experiences of women, the youth and professional drivers will also be discussed. The final section of the article after a conclusion containing the contradictory cultural representations of car among the Iranians, deals with two political and economic points. These two points deal with the impact of cultural consumption of the automobile, ever since its industrial production as well as the influence it exerted on national decision making patterns in coping with the problem of traffic.


National Research Institute for Science Policy (NRISP) affiliated to the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology, I.R. Iran is a think tank in the fields of science and technology policy-making and research in the country.

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