Geopolitics of the Dakar Rally: International Impediments Threatening Cultural, Religious, and Ecological Harmony among Motorcyclists

Open access


The contemporary popularity of motorcycling has resulted in a booming manufacturing industry as well as the emergence of a unique culture revolving around very specific forms of material cultural capital. Industry research focusing exclusively on the economic impact of motorcycling gravely underestimates the social and cultural consequences that have been brought about as a result of these ecological alternatives in personal mobility. As routine riding in overcrowded urban environments becomes more and more problematic, motorcyclists find themselves yearning for the self-exile available through the wide open spaces of desert environs in order to optimize the emancipatory potential of this sensual technological Bohemian experience on two wheels. To that end, off road motorcyclists have organized rallies such as the Dakar in unique geological environments to provide riders the technology-driven mystical catharsis they are seeking. Using evidence gathered from ethnographic fieldwork, film portrayals, and contemporary public policies; the paper demonstrates that the widespread popularity of off-road motorcycling and related intercultural harmony represents a significant threat to the routinization of conflict driving the hegemonic world order.

If the inline PDF is not rendering correctly, you can download the PDF file here.

  • Alt John (1982) ‘Popular Culture and Mass Consumption: The Motorcycle as Cultural Commodity.’ Journal of Popular Culture 15(4): 129-141.

  • Apter Michael J. (1992) The Dangerous Edge: The Psychology of Excitement NY: Free Press.

  • Bausenhart W. (2002) Africa: Against the Clock on a Motorcycle. Toronto Legas.

  • Bayat Asef (2005) Islamism and Social Movement Theory Third World Quarterly 26(6):891-908.

  • Behrens Arno Giljum Stefan Kovanda Jan and Niza Samuel (2007) The Material Basis of the Global Economy: Worldwide Patterns of Natural Resource Extraction and their Implications for Sustainable Resource Use Policies Ecological Economics 64(2):444-452.

  • Bennett Andy (2000) Popular Music and Youth Culture: Music Identity and Place Hampshire: Palgrave.

  • Bertrand Yann Arthus (2004) Operation Desert Cleanup Times December 11.

  • Brooke James (1988) Dangerous Paris – Dakar Race is Endangered New York Times March 13.

  • Costello Donald P. (1972) America in Change: Reflections on the 60’s and 70’s The Review of Politics 34(4): 187-193.

  • Cummings William (2005) Easy Rider and American Empire: A Postcolonial Interpretation International Journal of Motorcycle Studies Nov.

  • Diamond S. (1974) In Search of the Primitive: A Critique of Civilization New Brunswick Transaction.

  • Dulaney William L. (2005) Brief History of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gang International Journal of Motorcycle Studies Nov.

  • Dynes Michael (2001) Paris-Dakar Rally Condemned as Luxury Insult to Africa Times January 13.

  • Eliaz Raanan (2007) Who is Nicolas Sarkozy ? Jewish World Review May 7

  • Frank Andre Gunder and Gills Barry K. eds. (1993) The World System: Five hundred years or five thousand ? London: Routledge.

  • Glaser Barney G. & Strauss Anselm L. (1967) The discovery of grounded theory Strategies for Qualitative Research Chicago: Aldine.

  • Goaman Karen (2004) ‘The anarchist traveling circus: reflections on contemporary anarchism anti-capitalism and the international scene in Bowen James and Purkis Jonathan (eds) Changing Anarchism: Anarchist Theory and Practice in a Global Age Manchester UK: Manchester University.

  • Green Martin (1999) ‘Weber and Lawrence and Anarchism’ in Whimster Sam ed. Max Weber and the Culture of Anarchy London UK: Macmillan.

  • Guevara Ernesto Che (1995) The Motorcycle Diaries: Journeys Around South America NY: Verso.

  • Hamel Pierre Lustiger-Thaler Henri Pieterse Jan Nederveen and Roseneil Sasha (2001) Introduction: The Shifting Global Frames of Collective Action in Hamel Pierre Lustiger-Thaler Henri Pieterse Jan Nederveen and Roseneil Sasha (eds) Globalization and Social Movements Palgrave: NY.

  • Harris Richard (1998) Che Guevera and His Legacy Latin American Perspectives 25(4):19-32.

  • Harvey Jean (1999) Civilized Oppression. Lanham MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

  • Hebdige Dick (1983) ‘Traveling Light: One Route into Material Culture’ RAIN: Royal Anthropological Institute 59:11-13.

  • Hemenway David (1990) Propitious Selection Quarterly Journal of Economics 105(4):1063-1069.

  • Human Rights Watch (2012) Death of a Dictator Bloody Vengence in Sirte Washington DC: HRW

  • Inglehart Ronald (1990) Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society Princeton NJ: Princeton

  • Jorgensen Danny L. (1989) Participant Observation A Handbook for Human Studies Thousand Oaks CA: Sage

  • Katsiaficas George (1997) The Subversion of Politics: European Autonomous Social Movements and the Decolonization of Everyday Life NJ: Humanities.

  • Keenan Jeremy (2009) The Dark Sahara America's War on Terror in Africa NY NY: Pluto

  • Keenan Jeremy (2012) Al Qaeda in the west for the west in Poynting Scott and Whyte David (eds) Counter Terrorism and State Political Violence The War on Terror as Terror NY NY Routledge.

  • Krishnamurti (1992) On Freedom London: Victor Gollancz Ltd.

  • Levi Strauss David (1958 [1999]) Structural Anthropology Basic.

  • Mackay Hughie and Gillespie Gareth (1992) ‘Extending the Social Shaping of Technology Approach: Ideology and Appropriation’ Social Studies of Science 22(4): 685-716.

  • Madar Chase (2011) International Law Now Used as a Weapon License for War in Libya Le Monde July.

  • McDonald-Walker Suzanne (2000) Bikers: Culture Politics and Power NY: Oxford.

  • McGee Ryan (2007) The Most Challenging Race on the Planet ? ESPN. December 28.

  • Mellstrom Ulf (2002) ‘Patriarchal Machines and Masculine Embodiment’ Science Technology & Human Values 27(4):460-478.

  • Paulsen G. (1997) Pilgrimage on a Steel Ride New York Harcourt Brace & Company.

  • Peacock Anthony (2008) Desert Debacle Cancellation of the Dakar Rally irritated competitors and cost millions. What's next? Auto Week 59(3)January.

  • Pierson M. H. (1997) The Perfect Vehicle: What It Is About Motorcycles. New York W. W. Norton

  • Pirsig R. (1974) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry into Values. New York William Morrow.

  • Pratt Alan (2002) Modern America and Its Discontents: The Ride-Hard Die-Free Fantasy of Bike Week Journal of American Popular Culture 1(1):1-12.

  • Pursell Carroll W. (1983) The History of Technology and the Study of Material Culture American Quarterly 35(3):304-315.

  • Purdy Strother B. (1984) Technopoetics: What Literature Has to Do with the Machine Critical Inquiry 11(1): 130-140.

  • Roberts Allen F. and Roberts Mary Nooter (2007) Mystical Graffiti and the Refabulation of Dakar Africa Today 54(2):50-77.

  • Romanienko Lisiunia (2001) ‘Disputing Marxian Alienation and Hegelian Dialectics Through The Elective Affinities Of Techno Music’ in No Walls Leicester UK: De Montfort University 2001.

  • L'Osservatore Romano (2007) Vatican Says Dakar Rally Irresponsible Reuters Jan 11.

  • Ryan Yasmine (2012) Sarkozy denies Gaddafi ‘funded’ 2007 campaign Aljazeera April 28

  • Schouten John W. and McAlexander James H. (1995) ‘Subcultures of Consumption: An Ethnography of the New Bikers’ Journal of Consumer Research 22(1):43-61.

  • Schell Jonathan (2011) Attacking Libya – and the dictionary Le Monde. July

  • Scott C. (1996) Desert Travels: Motorbike Journeys in the Sahara & West Africa. London: Traveler.

  • Stanfield Peter (1992) Heritage Design: The Harley Davidson Motorcycle Company Journal of Design History 5(2):141-155.

  • Thompson Steven L. (2000) ‘The Arts of the Motorcycle: Biology Culture and Aesthetics in Technology Choice’ Technology and Culture 41: 99-115.

  • Wallerstein Immanuel M. (1999) The end of the World as we know it: a social science for the twenty-first century Minneapolis MN: University of Minnessota

  • Welsh Jonathan (2006) Born to be Mild Wall Street Journal 247(W1-5):2 June 23

  • West David (1990) Authenticity and Empowerment: A Theory of Liberation London: Harvester Wheatsheaf

  • Wilson J. C. (1936) Three-Wheeling Through Africa. New York Bobbs Merrill

  • Znaniecki Florian (1934) The Method of Sociology New York NY: Farrar and Rinehart.

Journal information
Cited By
All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 202 149 5
PDF Downloads 106 87 7