Inhabiting the family-car: Children-passengers and parents-drivers on the school run

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Inspired by recent advances in the field of automobility, this article explores how families inhabit cars, and how daily automobilized family routines are accomplished interactionally in and through cars' uniquely structured inner space(s). Following Urry's (2006) notion of the "socially inhabited car," the article assumes sociological and ethnomethodological sensibilities and sensitivities in researching in-car interactions. Specifically, a single strip of a familial dispute that takes place in the car on a routine trip to school is studied. The audiovisual data was taken from recordings of five urban families living in Jerusalem, Israel, during daily trips to school. A camcorder was supplied to the passengers - children of elementary school age - which served as a mobile recording device that captured the car's interior spaces and the interactions therein. Studying up-close verbal and gestural interactions reveals how family members, including driver (in the front seat) and passengers (in both the front and back seats), make use of the unique material design of the car's inner spaces as semiotic resources for communication and for affiliating and disaffiliating with the overall argumentative interaction. The article illuminates how an immediate physical context, in the shape of the car's interior, acts simultaneously as a material given and as a socially emergent or accomplished semiotic environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)309-333
Number of pages25
Issue number191
StatePublished - Aug 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Argument
  • Cars
  • Embodiment
  • Family
  • Mobility
  • Space
  • Talk-in-interaction


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