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Sattlegger, Lukas; Rau, Henrike (2016): Carlessness in a car-centric world: A reconstructive approach to qualitative mobility biographies research. In: Journal of Transport Geography, Vol. 53: pp. 22-31
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Social-scientific investigations into the changing dynamics of mobility practices across the life course hold considerable potential for understanding how the growing dominance of an unsustainable, largely car-based mobility culture manifests itself within individuals' biographies. Moreover, capturing the interplay between structure and agency that unfolds within these mobility biographies can shed light on both opportunities and drawbacks for sustainability transitions in the transport sector. Mobility biographies research has thus gained considerable momentum internationally. To date, much of this work has deployed quantitative approaches to record and analyse broader life-course related trends. Moreover, there has been a strong focus on the impact of specific life events such as childbirth or residential relocation on mobility practices of individuals and households. Examples of qualitative investigations of individuals' mobility biographies have frequently deployed cross-case comparisons that rest upon linear and realist conceptualisations of the life course. In contrast, narrative-interpretative inquiries into the meaning and complexity of mobility biographies remain scarce. This paper examines key conceptual and methodological aspects of a qualitative inquiry into voluntary carlessness across the life course. This is supplemented with an analysis of biographical interviews from the Vienna region in Austria that shows how individuals attach meaning to their deliberate departure from the dominant car culture. Building on these research experiences, the paper argues for a novel reconstructive approach to qualitative mobility biographies research that allows a deeper understanding of the biographical embeddedness of mobility practices. (C) 2016 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.