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Community in a mobile subculture: the world of the touring motorcyclist

Studies in Symbolic Interaction

ISBN: 978-1-84663-930-2, eISBN: 978-1-84663-931-9

Publication date: 25 July 2008


Drawing on ethnographic data collected over a 9-year period, from 1998 through 2006, we examine the foundations of community among a non-geographic, mobile, identity-based community of touring motorcyclists. Although traditionally oriented geographic communities continue to exist, the literature shows a growing trend toward non-geographic, identity-based communities, whose cohesiveness is based on collective identity, in-group/out-group boundaries, shared values, and symbols. Our focus on a mobile identity-based community contributes to this literature by examining a collectivity that is not only non-geographically situated, but is also based on a strong value placed on travel. Within the touring BMW motorcycling community, we found a strong collective identity that was founded on the shared values of adventure touring; long-distance, all weather endurance riding; proficient, and highly skilled riding; and safety. Our findings contribute to the literature on identity-based communities by demonstrating the salience of ritualized interaction that rewards those who conform to (or excel at) group values and reinforces the sense of collective identity that exists among this dispersed, mobile community. Additionally, our research demonstrates that a recreational subculture can provide some of the traditional benefits of community without many of the demands present in the more comprehensive forms of community.


Austin, D.M. and Gagné, P. (2008), "Community in a mobile subculture: the world of the touring motorcyclist", Denzin, N.K. (Ed.) Studies in Symbolic Interaction (Studies in Symbolic Interaction, Vol. 30), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 411-437.



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