With great precision and depth, Bednar (Southwestern Univ.) examines highway road shrines in this well-written, thoughtful volume. A professor of communication studies, Bednar focuses his anthropological gaze on the social meanings of roadside memorials found along the nation’s highways. He conceives these structures as commemorations of the traumatic deaths of loved ones who perished at the given sites, and also as messages to passing motorists, reminding them of the societal loss and potential dangers inherent at these locations. Bednar’s painstaking analysis is especially shown through his review of the wide-ranging literature. The text is enhanced by rich color photographs displaying representative shrines found on roadways throughout the southwestern states of the US, which vividly buttress the author's analytical contentions. . . Crucially, Bednar devotes significant attention to explaining how impromptu road shrines differ from established public memorials. In sum, this absorbing and illuminating book provides an encyclopedic grasp of a neglected yet fascinating subject. . . Summing Up: Recommended. All readers.
Robert Bednar has spent almost two decades mapping and photographing thousands of roadside car crash shrines, especially in the American Southwest. This cogent, well-theorized, and heartfelt account focuses on their traumatic affect, making a strong case for their disturbing significance as signs, and scars, of the nation’s troubling, and enduring, dependence on automobility.— Erika Doss, Professor of American Studies, University of Notre Dame
Based on more than fifteen years of research, Robert Bednar’s book is a ground-breaking look at these seemingly silent sentinels. With particular attention to the role of photography, Bednar’s unique transciplinary approach lays the groundwork for a provocative analysis of the collective agency these memorials exert as manifestations of cultural trauma. Challenging us to recognize society’s responsibilities to such trauma, Bednar calls upon us all to bear witness.