Rethinking Lowrider Artistic Representations: An Aesthetic Response to Social Exclusion
This paper examines ethnographically the construct of the lowrider vehicle as part of the barrio aesthetic. The central argument is that the display of lowriders can be better understood as an artistic response to institutional exclusion – an identity mechanism of resistance used to contest institutional oppression. The principles of the Borderlands theory provide exceptional insights into the analyses of aesthetic manifestations and social exclusion. We use this approach to theoretically frame lowriders’ artistic representations as mechanisms of resistance to social exclusion. This study employs a qualitative triangulation method that includes participant observations, photo documentation, and ten semi-structured interviews. Between winter 2006 and summer 2007 data were collected from two lowrider car shows in the state of Michigan. One site was in the city of Lansing and the other was in South Haven. This study found that lowrider art works as a source of stability and structure for Chicana/o young adults who live on the margins of society. Isolated by the racial/ethnic larger order from mainstream space, the lowrider aesthetic represents an identity-building component introduced through family and friends – consciously or unconsciously – to question institutional exclusion.