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Open Road

Part 2 Dissertation 2005
Stephen Kirk
Oxford Brookes University Oxford UK
As one of the most car dependant societies on earth Ireland has managed, until recently, to function without a motorway network. This study began as an attempt to understand how the recent emergence of a motorway culture in Ireland would alter society and the perception of self. To do this, I wrote two contrasting narratives.
One records a recent journey along a motorway. The events described act as primers for the investigation of theories and phenomena associated with motorways but also serve to root the investigation in contemporary Ireland. The second narrative is autobiographical. It seeks to demonstrate the importance of the road in my early life and charts experiences preceding and following the purchase of my mother’s first car, exploring the effect of mobility on a perception of self and the world at large.

It became apparent, through these narratives, that Ireland’s desire to construct a motorway network, and to construct it now, is a manifestation of a marked change in the Irish psyche. For now it seems clear that Motorways, and the desire to build them, can now be understood as an affirmation of Irish confidence in globalisation. I hope that this study has demonstrated that it is informative to look at the personal and the colloquial for insight into the abstract and global.

Stephen Kirk


Open Road explores the themes of roads, place and identity. The object of the study is Ireland. The vehicle for the exploration is a literary narrative that intertwines two autobiographical stories. One draws on the author’s memory of childhood to elucidate the role of the road in confining/widening his world. The other uses a real-time description of a motorway journey to trigger theoretical explorations on the ability of roads to define/express notions of Irish identity. This engaging and beautifully written study, illustrated by raw hand-made photographs, succeeds in locating and extending the contemporary discourse on the phenomenology of place.

2005
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