Driving in Austin suggests a metaphor: This town always has one eye on the windshield and one on the rearview. Everywhere you look things are being built, while others are being torn down. Everywhere you look, people both celebrate and worry about this. This is a city structured in the conflict between reaching towards and holding on. People seem to want (where “want” means both desire and lack) a way to reconcile the two, but it never quite happens.
Our rapidly changing streetscapes and roadscapes feel exciting, and “happening,” but also anxious. One reason for this is that they are haunted not only by memories of past lives but also by past dreams of the future both realized and interrupted or displaced.
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Robert M. Bednar is associate professor and chair of communication studies at Southwestern University in Georgetown, where he teaches critical media studies, visual communicationand cultural studies. He has published a number of scholarly and popular articles on everyday uses of public landscapes, and currently is completing a book on road trauma shrines titled ‘Road Scars: Trauma, Memory, and Automobility.’
The End of Austin
This article was previously published at endofaustin.com, website for The End of Austin, a project described by its mission statement as ‘the beginning of a much-needed conversation about the identity of Austin.’ With roots in the American Studies Department at the University of Austin, the project brings together ‘writers, scholars, and artists from Texas and beyond … to wrestle with the hype and hope of living in the fastest-growing city in the US.’