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Tourism, Consumption and Inequality in Central America

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Much research in international political economy (IPE) has been criticised for focussing on large and powerful actors in post-industrial countries, to the neglect of sites, processes and actors in the global South. This article offers a corrective to this bias in two ways: by locating the analysis in two rural Central American communities; and by exploring the social relations of consumption in these communities. In doing this, I challenge assumptions about rural places being excluded from global processes and explore the complexities and contradictions of how such communities are inserted into global circuits of production and consumption. Drawing on extensive qualitative research, the article explores the ways in which capitalist development through tourism has reconstituted the political economy of consumption in terms of habits, attitudes and behaviour in these two communities. Using the community and the household as sites of analysis, I explore the complex ways in which inequalities have been reconfigured through changing relations of consumption. Certain kinds of social hierarchies, in particular traditional gendered power relations within the household, have been challenged. However, other inequalities – such as class, ethnicity and nationality – have been reinforced by these processes.
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Keywords: Central America; consumption; gender; inequality; tourism

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Facultad de Ciencias PolĂ­ticas y Sociales,Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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