September 18, 2020

Princeton professor dissects Saudi road racing culture

Menoret looked at ‘drifting,’ a destructive racing activity, as social expression in Saudi Arabia. (Tim Lee / Photo Editor)

By Matthew Flamenbaum

Pascal Menoret of Princeton University spoke about his studies on Saudi Arabian car counterculture on April 25 in the last Politics Forum of the year.

Menoret explained to a crowded Business Building Lounge how young ethnic Bedouins have taken to acting out by destroying cars in an activity known as “drifting,” popularized in America by the movie “The Fast and the Furious” as well as numerous other media portrayals.

Menoret detailed the history of how Bedouins transitioned from a vast migratory culture to one existing primarily in the urban slums of the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh. Menoret began his lecture by asking, “What is the connection between rich young Saudis destroying cars and politics as we know it?”

After the Saudi government criminalized drifting, talking about drifting and being a part of a crowd to watch other people drift, Menoret said that drifting became a way of resisting the dominant Saudi culture, which he said attempts to marginalize Bedouins living in the slums.

“Resistance to boredom has slowly become a way of resisting the police and the state,” Menoret said.

“The sexuality of it was interesting, and how (one of the racers) dedicated the race to his beloved, that was another man, was interesting,” Stephanie Kraver, sophomore English major, said. She was also intrigued about “how this is also a politicized movement, it’s not just dangerous action, it’s a protest against authority.”

One of the most interesting points brought up by Menoret is that in Saudi drifting culture, there is no distinction between heterosexuality and homosexuality as defined by the West. Many “skidders,” as Menoret referred to them, performed for the primary hope of seducing another boy.

Women, Menoret said, constituted a very small minority of drifters due to their relatively low access to cars in the highly segregated Saudi society.

While Menoret spent a significant amount of time performing his research in Saudi Arabia on this drifting culture, he said he had only drifted once in his life, and would not like to repeat the experience.

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