Boundary-work and sustainability in tourism enclaves

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Tourists, workers, and business owners from diverse cultural backgrounds and social positions meet at tourism enclaves. Yet, the spatial layout of most enclaves encourages segregation instead of celebrating and benefiting from this diversity. This paper examines the genesis of enclave tourism boundaries. It proposes boundary-work as a sustainability practice to work out segregating propensities, and transform exclusionary boundaries or make them more permeable. Life story interviews in a Mexican Caribbean enclave revealed segregation's appalling consequences for workers, implicit costs for business owners, and the personal involvement of tourism actors in historical struggles over boundaries. This analysis constitutes a first step to untangle exclusionary propensities and render tourism boundaries more workable from a sustainability governance perspective. The paper explains the need for sustainable tourism research that identifies opportunities to: (1) address traumatic experiences born of discriminatory practices, (2) turn adversarial emotions between workers and business owners into productive collaborations across boundaries, and (3) challenge power asymmetries by providing tourism actors with knowledge about the physical, symbolic, and imaginary dimensions of boundaries. It concludes that the influence of any individual agent is profoundly limited; the transformation of long-standing boundaries demands a deliberate reformulation of sustainable tourism as a multi-dimensional decolonizing force.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Sustainable Tourism
StateAccepted/In press - Dec 1 2015


  • boundary objects
  • Caribbean
  • enclave tourism
  • Quintana Roo
  • spatial inequality
  • sustainability science

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management


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