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Title: Building a 'paradise' on fragile soils :place-making and unsustainable tourism in Northern Peru
Authors: Gonzalez Velarde, Fernando
Issue Date: 2013
Publisher: Newcastle University
Abstract: This thesis critically examines the current characteristics of the tourism industry in Peru. By taking the case of the coastal district of Mancora, Northern Peru, this study explores processes of place-making occurring in a context of neoliberal reform, whereby territories highly vulnerable to the ‘El Niño’ phenomenon are developed into tourist attractions. The approach of this thesis is interdisciplinary, using multi-sited ethnography and Critical Discourse Analysis as key instruments. The interpretative framework relies on anthropological theory about the nature and society interface; studies about socio-economic development, sustainable tourism and neoliberalism; debates concerning the socio-cultural elaboration of space, place, and identity in post-colonial societies; as well as literature on natural disasters. By portraying tourism as an efficient tool for economic growth, businessmen and national elites are seeking to transform the identity of Northern Peru into an ‘attractive’ tourist destination. Whilst this is expected to develop rural populations and the nation, the overwhelming enthusiasm triggered by tourism revenues has widely neglected the socio-cultural and environmental impacts this industry generates and, more importantly, the cyclical exposure of this region to the ‘El Niño’ phenomenon. Recent occurrences of this natural event provoked millions of dollars worth of damage, severely hitting the economic development of the country. In a context of global warming, this thesis analyses how tourism and neoliberalism provoke changes in the concepts used to relate to the natural environment and place in post-colonial societies, thus increasing socio-cultural differences, raising conditions of vulnerability and threatening the identities of rural populations. In particular, this multi-sited ethnography explores the process of place-making that developed the former fishing village of Mancora into a tourist destination and the socio-environmental problems prompted within this environmentally fragile territory. This is complemented with a critical analysis of the discourses that support tourism growth and an exploration of the role of the Peruvian state in governing the tourism industry and the use of natural resources. Ultimately, this thesis questions the current role of the tourism industry in developing Peruvian society and reflects on whether the current model of tourism development is increasing conditions of vulnerability of rural populations.
Description: PhD Thesis
Appears in Collections:School of Modern Languages

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