Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In 2017, The Dutch navigation company, TomTom, named Bucharest the most congested city in Europe and the fifth most congested city in the world, with commute times worse then the storied motorways of Los Angeles, CA and Beijing, China. For city residents, the dubious designation did not come as a surprise. A wave of Foreign Direct Investment following Romania’s EU accession developed in Bucharest a new middle class with a new commitment to automobility that bottlenecks roads but also overwhelms the city’s sidewalks and squares with illicitly parked cars. To address growing concerns of urban paralysis, city planners proposed to move cars off of the street and into newly constructed underground parking garages. How and to what effect, this paper asks, does the urban underground emerge as a critical site for mobilizing the middle class?