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Date Permissions Signed


Date of Award


Document Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor

Rossiter, David A.

Second Advisor

Abel, Troy D.

Third Advisor

Hammond, Joyce D., 1950-


This thesis is concerned with the social construction of nature and society through ecotourism on the Osa Peninsula of Costa Rica. It demonstrates that ecotourism is based on an idealized conception of nature external to and separate from society, allowing uneven power relationships to go unexamined and causing themes of social justice and equity to go unaddressed in the development and implementation of it. In my research I show how society and nature are linked in a mutually re-constructive relationship in order to redirect attention onto the way in which powerful agents control the idea of nature in Costa Rica and privilege those who accept the idealized external form, ultimately resulting in uneven development. This is achieved, first, by showing how society constructs nature through discursive representation and, second, by exploring how those new natures reconfigure social relationships and re-order social structures. Methodologically, I take an interpretive approach to participant observation and employ a discourse and image analysis of travel media. Specifically, I analyze Costa Rican travel brochures, advertisements, guidebooks, and electronic sources and contrast two Osa tourism ventures, utilizing information collected from informal interviews and student course journals. I argue that nature on the Osa Peninsula is increasingly being re-made as an object external to society, that society is being reconfigured as a result, that the entire process is controlled by an elite minority, and that the outcome is inequity based on a willingness and ability to accept the dominant new ideas about nature in Costa Rica.





Western Washington University

OCLC Number


Subject – LCSH

Ecotourism--Costa Rica--Osa Peninsula; Nature--Social aspects--Costa Rica--Osa Peninsula

Geographic Coverage

Osa Peninsula (Costa Rica)




masters theses




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