A critical ethnography of tourism entrepreneurship & social change in a fishing village community in Gran Canaria

Bianchi, Raoul V. (1999) A critical ethnography of tourism entrepreneurship & social change in a fishing village community in Gran Canaria. Doctoral thesis, University of North London.


This thesis constitutes an examination of a fishing village in Gran Canaria which has undergone social change in relation to a series of tourism development processes over the past four decades. It considers different aspects of these transformations within a critical theoretical framework, with specific emphasis on the formation of entrepreneurial classes and the contested nature of resource use and appropriation in the context of tourism development.

Much of the existing literature on tourism development is dominated by generalized models which fail to theorize the diverse and complex dynamics of local level tourism development, or particularist ethnographies of the impact of tourism on 'host' societies. These are often overly descriptive and fail to connect local processes of tourism development to the wider societal context and distribution of power within which they occur. The approach adopted here is based on a critical ethnography of tourism entrepreneurship which examines how broader processes of social, political and economic change have conditioned specific configurations of tourism within the village, distilled through the experiences and accounts of local residents. Evidence was gathered via sustained interaction with a number of key informants with different modes of involvement in tourism. This was supported by extensive secondary research using archive materials, newspaper sources and informal interviews with relevant personnel.

The touristification of Playa de Mogán has occurred as a series of processes which relate to wider changes in the macro-economic environment, and whose consequences have been uneven for members of the the resident population. An earlier phase of visitation by 4 'explorer-travellers' stimulated entrepreneurial responses amongst formerly more marginal members of the social formation, whereas the subsequent development of a tourist manna precipitated a wider scope of capitalistic intervention into the tourism landscape of the village, underpinned by the political agency of different levels of government. The examination of different modes of local response to tourism suggests that processes of tourism development cannot be easily predicted or be explained through recourse to linear or dualist models. An ethnographic approach to the analysis of the structure of tourism enterprise and social composition of local entrepreneurial classes reveals a range of antagonisms which indicate that the dynamics of social change related to tourism are differentiated and uneven.

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