The Faces of Oppression in Tourism: A Study of Cultural (In)Justice in Quintana Roo, Mexico

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 10:30
Oral Presentation
Tazim JAMAL, Texas A&M University, USA
Blanca CAMARGO, Universidad de Monterrey, Mexico
Although there is a robust body of research on the impacts of tourism on cultural and ethnic groups, very few have examined such impacts from a justice perspective. Cultural justice, a topic examined in disciplines such as anthropology (Fikentscher, 1991), education (Naude & Naude, 2005), sociology (Kwenda, 2003), socio-cultural studies (Ross, 1998), and political theory (Arneil, Deveaux, Dhamoon, & Eisenberg, 2007) is a young area of research and very little theory building has been done in tourism studies.

Based on the theoretical work of feminist scholar Iris Marion Young´s (1990), the Five Faces of Oppression, we examined how issues of justice in relation to tourism played out for the local Maya residents of the popular destination of the Riviera Maya in Quintana Roo, Mexico. Through intensive research in situ and empirical data from multiple sources, we found that Maya people suffered not only unfair distributional schemes that limit their access to tourism and marketing resources but also a cultural oppression that exploited them, inhibited their participation in tourism governance, and imposed a tourism culture upon them. Specifically, we identified four major cultural injustices towards the Maya that, although rooted in post-colonial and contemporary power dynamics, were replicated and perpetuated through tourism: Exploitation through labor and heritage appropriation, marginalization from tourism economic benefits and tourism decision-making, cultural racism experienced at the workplace and in interpersonal interactions, and cultural domination through the imposition of tourist landscapes, mainstream languages, and consumption patterns. Our study also uncovered important underlying roots of these injustices and the mechanisms through which they are enacted through tourism.

Based on our findings and drawing upon theoretical contributions from sociology and political theory we suggest key principles to address cultural injustice in tourism policy, management and marketing.