Lowrider car parked in garage. Water damage on the garage walls behind the car. Black and white poster showin Jim Morrison on garage wall, hung sideways. Some spraypainted black tag on the wall. Finger of photographer slightly covering camera lens.


Los Angeles, 2005. (The photo is not from the book referred to in the text to the right.)

Photo: Martin Høyem


Lowrider Space

We take a special interest in scientific works on outlaw aesthetics here at American Ethnography Quasimonthly. And we also love us some writing on car customization. Thus, when we heard about Ben Chappell’s Lowrider Space, a new publication from the University of Texas Press, we perked up: any academic hep cat who takes a look at lowriders is cool, calm, and a solid wig as far as we’re concerned.

Lowrider Space draws on Chappell’s participant observation fieldwork among car clubs in Austin, Texas. He describes how the lowrider culture creates a social space for its participants, and he points to the value of this space for a group of people who – because of their social status in the society they live in – are often denied access to other spaces.

It’s a cool piece of research, and we’re stoked to share with you an excerpt from the book. Here’s “Regulating Lowrider Space.”

Waltz and Swing: The Downfall of American Society

Patsy Holden writes about the history of the Waltz and Swing, both once considered “a nuisance and the downfall of American society.”

The World of Lucha Libre

Anthropologist Heather Levi apprenticed with a retired luchador (wrestler) in Mexico City. She also observed live lucha libre events and interviewed wrestlers, referees, officials, promoters, and reporters, and gathered her insights in a beautiful work of ethnography, The World of Lucha Libre.

Here is an excerpt from Levi’s book.

Robert Frank’s The Americans

We got our hands on a copy of the Steidl 2008 re-issue of Robert Frank’s classic photo portrait of post-war USA, and we give you This, Upon Reading The Americans.

Becoming a Marihuana User

We have featured Howard Becker’s writing previously in American Ethnography (see Photography and sociology). Now we want to bring to your attention one of his earlier articles: Becoming a Marihuana User from 1953. Becker shines brilliantly with his typical scientific eloquence, as he describes the psychological and social factors that need to be in place for a neophyte to succesfully get high, and later be “willing and able to use the drug for pleasure when the opportunity presents itself.” Read on in this beautiful piece of social science, Becoming a Marihuana User.


Consciousness produced by intoxicants and anaesthetics

“I realized that in that half hour under ether I had served God more distinctly and purely than I had ever done in my life before, or than I am capable of desiring to do.”

More …

What else?

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Proposal to perfume within your region

“It is my wish to book with you for a group of 10 students coming from Germany, as they are preparing for their contracted proposal to perfume within your region.”

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Photo: Lourdes Grobet

We love lucha libre cinema. We love it when Santo and Blue Demon team up to fight Dracula’s daughter or invaders from Mars. And we love it when the two luchadores, dressed in their funky 1970’s suits, sit down with their girlfriends to eat cake and drink coffee in a fancy restaurant, and they’re still wearing their masks. It’s magnetic!

So, not surprisingly, we also love the photos of Lourdes Grobet, lucha libre documentarian extraordinaire. We got our hands on a copy of her book Espectacular de Lucha Libre. You can read our review here.

What’s all this, then?
Black and white pen drawing of car interior with chain steering wheel.

American Ethnography is a stranger in a 1972 Riviera, sunburst yellow banged up and dirty, raving coffee madness cruising Main Street of the quiet desert town at 15 miles an hour …”

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