Messengers united

For close to 2 years now I’ve been in falling in and out of love with several bicycles and progressively choosing those that allow better speeding on the road. The culture of messengers has intrigued me for a long while now for several reasons ranging from their traffic-dodgery, fashion, outsider status and underground squatting/raving/dreads-wearing underground community. Their trends have influenced the entire cycling community in London and particularly East London, which is now crawling with single speed fixed gear bikes.

Want to know more about them? Today I stumbled upon a paper about the bike messenger culture by a professor of sociology at University of Brighton, Ben Fincham. (Thanks again, Asi!)

The conceptual separation of ‘work’ and ‘life’, as distinct elements of social activity, has become established as shorthand for the social and psychological dislocation felt by being at work and not being at work.There is a literature on the work/life balance driven by governmental rhetoric, based on the idea of flexible working.This article suggests that distinctions between ‘work’ and ‘life’, implying a dichotomy in adult life, are overstated. Using material from a study of bicycle messengers this article presents a rich account of a group of workers for whom the binary distinction between work and life is meaningless.The account of this world of work is more closely aligned with those of the jazz musicians described by Becker or the boxers of Weinberg and Arond, where the occupation, identity and culture are not confined to hours of work

Although academic, the paper is highly readable and entertaining. Fincham takes the reader through the cultural backround, fashion and events surrounding the messenger phenomenon. If you’d like me to send it  to you, feel free to email me or leave a comment below.

Keep on riding.


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