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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Tourism and Territory in the Mayan World

  • Author(s): Devine, Jennifer Ann
  • Advisor(s): Hart, Gillian
  • Watts, Michael
  • et al.

In post Peace Accords Guatemala, tourism development is engendering new claims and claimants to territory in a climate of land tenure insecurity and enduring inequality. Through ethnographical research, this dissertation explores the territoriality of tourism development through the empirical lens of an archaeological site called Mirador in the Maya Biosphere Reserve. I develop a process-based understanding of territoriality to analyze tourism related struggles over identity, boundary making, land use, heritage claims, and territorial rule at the frontier of state power. In theorizing tourism's territoriality, I argue that the intertwined practices of capitalist spatial colonization and the commodification of place uniquely characterize the industry. I identify five manifestations of tourism's territoriality in the Maya Biosphere: practices of historical and geographical erasure in Mirador tourism imaginaries, territory-based identity production, tourism-enabled practices of enclosure and land dispossession, the "scaling up" of heritage claims through the social construction of global heritage, and the militarization of conservation spaces through tactics of counterinsurgency eco-tourism development.

In conceptualizing tourism's territoriality, this project contributes to the fields of political ecology, critical tourism studies, political geography, and spatial theories of territory. At the chapter level, analytical contributions include analyses of identity formation in contemporary Guatemala, the role of tourism development in driving the global land grab, how implicit ideas of scale in global heritage discourses usurp local claims to natural and cultural resources, and the revival of counterinsurgency methods in the making of paradisiacal places. In Guatemala's booming post-war tourism sector, this dissertation argues that ongoing struggles over territory are taking deceptively innocuous forms of national park creation, world heritage designation, and environmental conservation.

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