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Explorations in Mobility
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The Devil's Wheels
Men and Motorcycling in the Weimar Republic
374 pages, 26 illus., 8 tables, bibliog., index
ISBN 978-1-78533-169-5 $135.00/£99.00 Hb Published (August 2016)
ISBN 978-1-78920-523-7 $29.95/£23.95 Pb Published (July 2019)
eISBN 978-1-78533-170-1 eBook
“A ﬁne study of the gendering of motorcycles in the inter- war years, Sasha Disko’s The Devil’s Wheels offers an important interpretation of a mass-produced technology, the motorcycle, and how it came to embody masculinity as well as new forms of consumerism.” • American Historical Review
“All in all, Disko offers a pronounced multi-perspective analysis of the motor-cycle as ‘cultural commodity’ in Weimar Germany, demonstrating impressively what a modern mobility study can achieve… Disko’s study is innovative and highly readable…[it] makes an important contribution to the cultural history of motorcycling and even opens up a new perspective on the cultural history of the Weimar Republic.” • Journal of Transport History
“Sasha Disko’s study provides a treasure trove of exciting themes for those interested in leisure time activities, gender, consumption but also interactions between the state, through the police, and the motorcyclists on the streets in Weimar Germany.” • German History
“Disko offers a new and exciting interpretation that challenges our understandings of gendered consumption, modernity, and the role that motorcycles played in defining and defending masculinity, femininity, and the nation during the interwar years.” • Jennifer Lynn, Montana State University
“This is a fascinating, engagingly written, and illuminating book that resonates well beyond its immediate national and historical context. Its exploration of the anxieties and opportunities surrounding identity in the Weimar Republic will be greeted enthusiastically by scholars in cultural history, mobility studies, gender studies, and a host of other interdisciplinary fields.” • Cotten Seiler, Dickinson College
During the high days of modernization fever, among the many disorienting changes Germans experienced in the Weimar Republic was an unprecedented mingling of consumption and identity: increasingly, what one bought signaled who one was. Exemplary of this volatile dynamic was the era’s burgeoning motorcycle culture. With automobiles largely a luxury of the upper classes, motorcycles complexly symbolized masculinity and freedom, embodying a widespread desire to embrace progress as well as profound anxieties over the course of social transformation. Through its richly textured account of the motorcycle as both icon and commodity, The Devil’s Wheels teases out the intricacies of gender and class in the Weimar years.
Sasha Disko is a historian and independent scholar. She received her PhD in History from New York University, and she has been associated with the Center for Metropolitan Studies, Berlin, since 2008. Her research interests include motorization, industrialization, and leisure.
Subject: History: 20th Century to Present Gender Studies and Sexuality Transport Studies
List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgements
Introduction: Does the man make the motorcycle or the motorcycle the man?
Chapter 1. From Pioneers to Global Dominance: The First Forty Years of the German Motorcycle Industry
Chapter 2. Engineering and Advertising a Motorized Future
Chapter 3. Motorcycles and the “Everyman”: Exploring the Motorcycling Milieu
Chapter 4. “Is Motorcycling Even Sport?”: Strength and the National Body during the Weimar Republic
Chapter 5. Deviant Behaviors: Inclusion, Exclusion, and Community
Chapter 6. Motoring Amazons?: Women and Motorcycling During the Weimar Republic
Chapter 7. Sex and the Sidecar: Sexuality, Courtship, Marriage and Motorization
Epilogue: The Will to Motor
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