American Studies ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-15-2018


This dissertation is an interdisciplinary exploration of Highway 66 heritage in order to understand what makes the historic American route distinctive in the contemporary capitalist scenario. Although deterioration of the road is evident, it continues to epitomize an historic American infrastructure as well as a fascinating conceptualization of the United States in the American imagination and in the international consciousness. Historical evidence indicates that the formation of Highway 66 largely depended on a conjuncture of political, cultural, and socio-economic factors under capitalism and institutional forces and ideological principles of Manifest Destiny and American Exceptionalism. As an incarnation of these relationships between economic powers and institutional forces, Highway 66 as a road and as a popular phenomenon called “Route 66,” offers fertile terrain to investigate stories of social oppression, exclusion, and segregation and to examine how public beliefs and prejudices perpetuate issues of class, race, and ethnic difference.

This research project delves deeply into these themes by examining original tangible constructions, and symbols of the Highway 66 era that have characterized the life of the corridor. These two components of the road remain meaningful evidence of the dialectical connection between its heritage and capitalist dynamics. My aim is to show how the combination of institutional forces and capitalist interests continue to shape Highway 66 heritage within geographies of power. Using some roadside commercial facilities built between 1937 and 1970 such as auto dealerships, service stations, restaurants and cafés, motels, and trading posts/curio shops as a lens, this study provides an exploration “on the ground” of Central Avenue as a significant section of the original “Mother Road” in the urban context of Albuquerque, New Mexico. My research focuses on three main objectives. First, it evaluate roadside businesses to understand how dominant forces use tangible and symbolic resources to capitalize on the heritage of Highway 66 and exert control over the forms of spatiality, representation, and socio-spatial relations. Second, my study determines how the American past influences economic, political, and socio-cultural processes of the present and, in turn, how the current uses of Highway 66 heritage affect American history and culture to accomplish capitalist purposes. Third, the project develops a new method of analysis of Highway 66, and ultimately American heritage formation, putting in conversation current spatial forms and symbolic formations found inside and / or outside buildings along Central Avenue.

This comprehensive portrait of tangible and intangible American heritage adopts historical-geographical materialism as a Marxist method of inquiry of “new cultural geography.” Blending principles of politics of place and offering a rethinking of the influential contributions of the American Studies curricula, this project opens a new window into how to get behind the surface appearance of placemaking and symbolic practices. The discussion outlines the role of dominant productive forces in turning American heritage and Highway 66 into commodities that reproduce the logic of capitalism and processes of urban imperialism, obscuring processes of exclusion of otherness.

A final section provides recommendations for future research that specifically focuses on spatiality and forms of rehabilitation along historic Highway 66.





Document Type


Degree Name

American Studies

Level of Degree


Department Name

American Studies

First Committee Member (Chair)

Michael L. Trujillo

Second Committee Member

David Correia

Third Committee Member

David King Dunaway

Fourth Committee Member

William Dodge

Fifth Committee Member

Kristina Michelle Jacobsen


FIFTH COMMITTEE MEMBER: Kristina Michelle Jacobsen