More Than Material: The Vibrancy of the Car in the Volkswagen Diesel Scandal

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Hale, Tyler




This thesis pits the work of political theorist Jane Bennett, namely the theoretical paradigm of vibrant materialism, against conventional political economic approaches to material culture, and the wider political economy of automobile society. It asks, and answers, two overarching questions: what can Bennett’s vibrant materialism contribute to more traditional Marxist style materialism, and what benefit can they, together, bring to discussions about material culture in anthropology? Secondly, how were the events of the Volkswagen diesel scandal of 2015, i.e. the unbridled success of clean diesel technology in the U.S., the duplicitous role of Volkswagen’s ‘defeat devices’, and the entire network of characters involved, affected by the material composition of diesel cars and the wider political economy of automobility? I argue that Volkswagen's clean diesel cars are vibrant materials, which actively produce the subjectivities that are contrary to the ecological-sensitivity the technology is purported to advance.


Cultural Anthropology




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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