Cultural Dimensions of Ecotourism

For the past ten years, I have been conducting ongoing research concerning what I call the “cultural dimensions of ecotourism,” that is, the social forces that motivate a certain demographic – mostly white, upper-middle-class members of postindustrial societies – to pursue the types of activities (outdoor, rugged, physically challenging) characterizing ecotourism, and the cultural impact of this in the places where ecotourism is promoted as a sustainable development strategy.  This study began with my dissertation research, a multi-site analysis focused on whitewater tourism in California and southern Chile.  Since moving to Costa Rica, I have continued this research in the place that has been called “ecotourism’s poster child,” and have conducted a short stint of exploratory research in Colombia as well.  Aspects of this research have been published in the articles listed below, and I am currently putting the final touches on a book manuscript, tentatively titled Romancing the Wild, that offers a comprehensive account of my findings.  Stay tuned for information concerning where that will appear.

Forthcoming. “Sustaining Tourism, Sustaining Capitalism?: Theorizing the Tourism Industry’s Role in Global Capitalist Expansion.” Tourism Geographies.

2011. “The Only Risk is Wanting to Stay: Mediating Risk in Colombian Tourism Development.” Recreation and Society in Africa, Asia & Latin America 1(2):7-30.

2010. “The Emperor’s New Adventure: Public Secrecy and the Paradox of Adventure Tourism.” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography 39(1):6-33.

2009. “Ecotourism Discourse: Challenging the Stakeholders Theory.” Journal of Ecotourism 8(3):269-285.

2008. “Living on the Edge: The Appeal of Risk Sports for the Professional Middle Class.” Sociology of Sport Journal 25(3):310-330.


Neoliberalization of Conservation in Costa Rica

For the past three years, I have been investigating a growing trend whereby conservation policy and practice in Costa Rica – as throughout the world – increasingly emphasizes decentralized governance structures, public-private partnerships, and reliance on market mechanisms to incentivize conservation by attaching sufficient value to in situ natural resources that users will choose to preserve rather than extract them.  This trend is expressed, among other measures, in the growing popularity of ecotourism and payment for environmental services (whereby owners of forest parcels are paid to conserve them), as well as more recent mechanisms such as international carbon markets, environmental derivatives, species banking, and so on.  This process of neoliberalization is dramatically transforming the way conservation is practiced these days, and my research seeks to  understand these changes and their impacts on conservation outcomes.  Initial findings have been published in several places, as detailed below.

Forthcoming. “Capitalizing on Chaos: Climate Change and Disaster Capitalism.” Ephemera.

2010. “Neoliberal Environmentality: Towards a Poststructuralist Political Ecology of the Conservation Debate.” Conservation and Society 8(3):171-181.

2010. “When Environmental Issues Collide: Climate Change and the Shifting Political Ecology of Hydroelectric Power.” Peace & Conflict Review 5(1):14-30.

2009. “Against Wilderness.” Green Theory & Praxis: The Journal of Ecopedagogy 5(1):169-179.


Environmental Resistance and Social Movements

An ongoing side interest of mine explores the motivation for and impact of resistance and social movements addressing environmental issues.  This began with my Master’s research, which sought to understand why indigenous Pewenche in southern Chile reacted to differently to the prospect of displacement by a hydroelectric dam, with some enthusiastically embracing resettlement while others fiercely resisted.  This led to an offer to put together an edited volume charting the future of resistance studies, which had become somewhat stagnant in recent years.  I continue to address this theme in my current research by exploring growing opposition to a major new round of big dam construction currently underway around the world.  For details of all this, please see the following publications.

2010. “When Environmental Issues Collide: Climate Change and the Shifting Political Ecology of Hydroelectric Power.” Peace & Conflict Review 5(1):14-30.

2007. Editor. Beyond Resistance: The Future of Freedom. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

2007. “Introduction: Beyond Resistance?” In Beyond Resistance: The Future of Freedom, Robert Fletcher, ed. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

2007. “Free Play: Transcendence as Liberation.” In Beyond Resistance: The Future of Freedom, Robert Fletcher, ed. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

2001. “What are We Fighting For?: Rethinking Resistance in a Pewenche Community in Chile.” The Journal of Peasant Studies 28(3):36-67.


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