Between man and machine: a socio-historical analysis of masculinity in North American motorcycling culture

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Maynard, Joshua Robert Adam
Motorcycling , Pierre Bourdieu , Feminism , Judith Butler , Sport , Sociology , Biker
There has been a longstanding fascination with motorcycling culture in popular mainstream North American media, but this culture has only recently become the focus of rigorous, contextualized academic research. While smaller research projects have studied specific aspects of motorcycling culture, few academic researchers have investigated the exclusionary discourses that underpin motorcycling culture and none have done so in a methodical manner. Using a series of columns published over a thirty-five year period in the popular Canadian motorcycle magazine, Cycle Canada, I have analyzed the discourses through which motorcycling culture comes to have meaning to its participants and I have elucidated the socio-historical understandings of masculinity that are present in North American motorcycling culture. This thesis provides a historical sociological analysis of motorcycling discourse through a feminist lens. I view gender as a relation that must constantly be (re)negotiated amongst socially constituted subjects and I pay particular attention to how technological discourse is made socially durable and sustainable by the interface of material (motorcycles) and organic (human) beings. Longitudinal analysis of Cycle Canada illustrates the presence of heteronormative discourses that constrain readers' choices of gender identification and sexual orientation to traditional notions of masculinity. In an effort to create solidarity with their readers, the magazine editors cater to the perceived interests of an idealized male audience by performing these masculine identities. Though motorcycling culture in Canada is increasingly diverse, Cycle Canada has only begun to reflect this diversity in the past two years of publication. Explicating the social, political, economic, technological and historical context which gave rise to particular masculine identities in motorcycling culture allows us to focus on the positive agency involved in the performance of masculine identities, while still recognizing that there remains room to include other figurations of identity beyond traditional concepts of heteronormativity and homosociality.
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