Jonathan Purkis
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Climatic dangers
Hitchhiking and the relative realities of risk
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This chapter addresses the difficult themes of real and actual danger, putting the risks of hitchhiking within a wider context of automobile deaths, air pollution and likelihood of harm occurring in more ordinary areas of life (at home, at work). The relative risks of hitchhiking must be understood as being inseparable from discussions of power and inequality in society, principally misogyny, institutional racism and prejudice against marginal groups. The tendency to blame the victim in the reporting of hitchhiking attacks is indicative of these imbalances and the assumption that 'the road' cannot be a female space. The chapter considers how moments of tragedy (such as the death of artist and peace activist Pippa Bacca in Turkey in 2008) often generate a sense of collective responsibility between communities for reducing violence in society and challenging patriarchal attitudes. Nowhere has this been so strongly observed than among the transport-poor First Nation communities along the ‘Highway of Tears’ in British Columbia, where many women have disappeared or been killed. Given that there are female hitchhikers the world over who still choose to travel on their own, listening to their reasoning and strategies – as well as a number of male hitchhikers who have used hitchhiking to discuss masculinity – offers a way forward to think more constructively about sharing the road.

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Driving with strangers

What hitchhiking tells us about humanity

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