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Sunderland Repository records the research produced by the University of Sunderland including practice-based research and theses.

VW Campervan Subculture: Tourism Mobilities and Experiences

Wilson, Sharon (2018) VW Campervan Subculture: Tourism Mobilities and Experiences. Doctoral thesis, University of Sunderland.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)


This thesis seeks to understand the mobilities of VW Campervan tourists as they travel for leisure purposes. The aim of the study is to unpack the social and embodied consequences of Volkswagen ownership to contribute to mobilities and automobilities research. By following the ‘slow’ journeys of VW campervan tourists travelling to festivals in the North East of England and Scotland, the different intensities of interactions between driver and vehicle are mapped in this dialogic account. Mindful of the centrality of the human subject in this case, it was important to ground the research in the new mobilities paradigm and to place meaningful movements at the heart of this analysis of a particular expression of modern social life (Urry, 2000a, Adey, 2010). Further to epistemological rationale of the study, Actor Network Theory is also used as tool through which to unpack, order and reconcile the social, material and non-representational affects that constitute VW Campervan travel. This framework is important as it has allowed knowledge to be captured within a broad spectrum of possibilities rather than as distinct tropes. Within existing tourism literature, interactions between people and velocity on ferries, canoes, motorcycles, waiting in line and so on, have been touched upon (Mitchell and Kubein, 2009; Vannini et al., 2009; Waskul, 2009), but no research has looked explicitly at the dimensions of VW campervan travel as a characterful form which travellers form significant bonds with their vehicles. In terms of the research design, interdisciplinary, inductive and interpretivist methodologies are used as epistemological foundations upon which ethnographic, auto-ethnographic, visual and mobile methods are deployed for data collection.
Fieldwork was conducted during the summer between 2010/13 and the resultant findings developed into three distinct critiques. These include observations on how they travel on roads to the destination, considerations of the relationship between the driver and VW campervan, then finally insights into the experiences of owners at the festival. As a contribution to knowledge therefore, the chapter Velocity and Time comprehends the experience of roads as not mundane thoroughfares but instead rich, vivid and meaningful places where travellers are enveloped in speed, nature and communality. Then in the chapter Sensing the Automobile, the emotional
and embodied relations between driver and vehicle as they together create mobile leisure are contemplated. Finally in Home and Away the paradoxical nature of tourism normally used to escape the everyday, is was found in this case that the mundane realities of home were replicated somewhere else. The third and final discussion examines the relationship between the VW campervan and its owner to propose that their embodied relationship induces a range of social intercourses unique to the Volkswagen brand.
Key Words: Tourism Mobilities, Slow Travel, Embodiment, Transhumanism, Actor Network Theory

Final Submission PHD 2018 (S Wilson).pdf - Accepted Version

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Depositing User: Barry Hall


Item ID: 9314

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Catalogue record

Date Deposited: 09 May 2018 07:44
Last Modified: 01 May 2020 02:38


Author: Sharon Wilson

University Divisions

Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism


Tourism > Tourism

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