Ethnography of Petrol Station Stay

TENDING TO MOBILITY: INTENSITIES OF STAYING AT THE PETROL STATION by Daniel Normark (Environment & Planning A. Pion, vol. 38, no 2, pp 241-252.) is an ethnographic study of ongoing social activities at a petrol station.

Petrol stations constitute a nexus for mobility. Through ethnographic observations it is tested how the continuous flow of vehicles, commodities, money and people is sustained and made accountable. The fieldwork demonstrates that despite its transitory character, the petrol station offers a wide spectrum of ‘duration of stay’. The station was used while being on-the-way as well as providing a possibility to disembark from automobility, i.e. being off-the-way. However, the most important finding is that the station tends to mobility, from the production and recognition of fluency, the constant negotiation and articulation work of situations, to continuous maintenance and repair of movement. Accomplishing a flow of people, vehicles, money and commodities is a complex and delicate task requiring subtle negotiation between staff and visitors as well as among visitors themselves. A negotiation supported and hampered by available materialities of the place.

Why do I blog this? I like this idea of studying non-place (à la Augé), and gas stations are of particular interest, their identity (placeness?) is very intriguing.