"Hellfire & brimstone" Middle-aged Americans' everyday practices of automobile culture, religion and art
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This study is an extension of the Cultural Studies tradition in general and Paul Willis's (2000) multiple-case research project, focusing on young people's everyday symbolic practices, in particular. This study examines the way in which an American Northeastern white middle-aged peer group, whose members ran an evangelical church and a 1950s-themed car club together, formed identities through their everyday religious and automobile cultural practices, and how these adults reflected upon their classed and gendered experiences in different life domains of leisure, religion, family, job and schooling, as related to their identity formation. Based on fifteen months of data collection through observations, document collection, and 19 interviews with four participants (three men and one woman, aged from 36 to 47, with two or three children), my findings open up several avenues for understanding ordinary people's everyday alternative practices, cultural, symbolic, and/or religious. Drawing symbolic resources from those relations of their culture with several auto-related and conservative Christian cultures, contemporary and historical, and with contexts of the 1950s, the 1990s and the 2000s, these participants carried out embodied, coping-oriented, symbolic and religious alternative practices against the discourse of secularism and an unjust class structure, reproduced the existing patriarchal gender order, and reinforced the discourse of conservatism in their self-made, face-to-face, small community. This story also shows social dynamics between the discourse of secularism and class and gender structures, and these participants, and among their culture, other cultures and social contexts, in which their alternative culture emerges, forms and disappears. Throughout this dynamic process, these participants' alternative practices demonstrate their identities of being family-oriented, Christian, masculine and strong auto-modifiers and being informal, non-judgmental, auto-enthusiastic Christians.