Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Jessica Frazier


The uneven distribution of the benefits and burdens of tourism development is creating an experience of social injustice for residents today on tourism-dependent Catalina Island, off the coast of California. While there is a great breadth of work covering archaeology and ecology of the island, there is minimal research related to recent human experience on the island (Higgins & Mehta, 2018; Hofmeister & Voss, 2017; Teeter et al., 2013). The island has been developed as a privately owned and managed tourism resort since 1880, and this private status has allowed for fluctuating involvement of island residents in decision-making and prolonged intersectional injustice against communities of color. Environmental justice scholars describe differential access to resources and decision-making processes as forms of participative (in)justice (Whyte, 2010). On the island, participative injustice stems from the lack of opportunity and ability for residents to take part in the process of local tourism development. Tourism managers’ prioritization of meeting upper-class White tourists’ vacation expectations creates perceptions among locals that tourism development’s impact on their needs and views is an afterthought on Catalina Island.

This research employs a qualitative, mixed methods approach to explore how tourism development on the island has created perceptions and experiences of unjust tourism. Through a combination of online surveys, semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and document analysis, this project reveals the centrality of memory-making to the development of Catalina Island as a tourism destination. It also shows how dominant narratives and counternarratives continue to affect residents’ lives today. This research integrates an intersectional analysis of identity with conceptual frameworks of just tourism in analyzing the transformations of justice and power in tourism on Catalina (Biddulph & Scheyvens, 2018; Crenshaw, 1989; Delgado & Stefancic, 1998; Finney, 2014; Jamal & Camargo, 2014).

Through the case study of Catalina Island, this dissertation provides a novel analysis of the justice of tourism development in the Global North. While there have been significant evaluations of issues of justice in Global South tourism destinations, this study provides an important in-depth case to explore how issues of tourism injustice manifest in the Global North. The prevalence of concerns related to legacies of colonialism, property relations, resource distribution, and marginalization of intersectional identities in both Global North and South tourism destinations reveals the applicability and relevance of Global South frameworks to the Catalina Island case (McCarthy, 2002). As such concerns are particularly present on Catalina Island, this case is especially valuable in progressing just tourism and related research in advanced capitalist societies. It finds that residents’ access to influence and resources is extremely temporal, and largely dependent on the individuals guiding tourism management at the time. Additionally, it reveals evolving identities of isolation for residents and the island itself that have transformed over the past one hundred forty years in building the island’s reputation as an escape. By centering residents’ perspectives and recommendations, this dissertation aims to define just tourism for Catalina Island on the terms of the residents and reframe the island’s tourism history to include the heterogeneous experiences of living and working in a manufactured paradise.



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