Date of Award

12-1-2010

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department

History

First Advisor

Lieberman, Robbie

Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to chart the acceptance of hitchhiking in American culture from the Depression through Ronald Reagan's two terms in office and explore the reasons for the decline of the practice. I argue that views of hitchhiking in American culture are more dependent upon the economic and political climates of a particular time period than any real connection to the actual level of violence. There was always violence associated with hitchhiking, but different time periods understood these violent acts in different ways. I suggest these alternative ways of perceiving the safety of hitchhiking were informed by national attitudes toward collectivism and individualism. Moreover, the economic and political climates of a time period dictate the values associated with hitchhiking, specifically in terms of the necessity and perceived romance of the practice, and how these values shape the acceptance of hitchhiking in the United States.

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