Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management

Committee Member

William C Norman, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Lauren N Duffy

Committee Member

Gregory Ramshaw

Committee Member

William C Terry


Informed by critical race theory and critiques of neoliberal capitalist tourism development, this case study explores the ways in which sociocultural, economic and political factors shape the tourism workforce and the lived experience of tourism workers. It is driven by the following overarching question: How do sociocultural, economic and political factors affect tourism workers in New Orleans? And three sub-questions: 1) How have historic sociocultural, economic and political institutions shaped the structure of tourism workforce in the United States? 2) How has the discourse used directly following Hurricane Katrina shaped the position of workers within the New Orleans tourism complex? 3) How does the tourism workforce engage with and experience the storied landscape of tourism?

Using participant observation as one of my primary methods of data collection I spent 128 hours in the site (New Orleans), conducted semi-structured and unstructured, collected news articles and other media sources, and analyzed artifacts. To understand New Orleans as a tourism destination, I thoroughly documented the economic strength of tourism in the city, residents' dependence on tourism for employment, and its historical existence. Moving beyond this description I conducted a more intensive analysis to identify the most salient mechanisms to uncover how race has played an integral role in shaping tourism development in New Orleans including: the tourism narrative, the invisibility of the workforce, power discourses of opportunity, safety and identity, and storytelling. A discussion around these mechanisms illuminates how tourism development, and the discourse around it, can exclude from input those whom the industry relies upon most heavily: the workers. It also however, provides examples of alternative ways in which such persons can resist such structures (e.g. entrepreneurialism, organized labor). Since the reproduction and perpetuation of tourism narratives in tourism destinations often cause the identities of marginalized populations within the destination to be suppressed, or at least monitored, methods employed in this research provide a necessary avenue for expressing lived experiences of those marginalized in pursuit of transforming dominant ways of thinking about the tourism workforce.

This study found that the segmentation of the U.S. labor market through racialized, ethnic and gendered ideologies and policies at the start of the labor movement in the late 19th and early 20th century played an important role in structuring the tourism workforce and its social and economic valuation that continues today. In addition, the use of hypercapitalist strategies such as disaster capitalism exacerbates such valuations using discourse rooted in safety, opportunity and discourse, which often celebrates the product of tourism labor while excluding the workers themselves from taking part in or realizing the benefits of tourism development. In New Orleans, these factors worked together to produce feelings of disdain not necessarily toward tourism within the city, but the master tourism narratives rooted in racist, sexist and classist ideologies that perpetuate historical and cultural invisibility of culture bearers and tourism workers. The counter-narratives developed in this study provide an interpretation for mending the chasm created and maintained by sociocultural, economic and political factors that resides between the positive aspects of tourism development and those who sustain it.



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