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Keywords:

  • civil society;
  • globalization;
  • political ecology;
  • tourism;
  • urban environments;
  • Jamaica

Jamaica's tourism industry has grown rapidly in recent decades, with significant implications for national development. However, the distribution of the benefits from this growth sector has been socially and spatially uneven. Drawing on substantial data sets collected through a variety of participatory research practices, this paper assesses the socioeconomic and environmental challenges facing the residents of Montego Bay and Falmouth on Jamaica's north coast, the main site for tourism development in the country. The research involved training community residents as researchers, and used traditional quantitative methods alongside techniques borrowed from participatory rapid appraisal.

The local society and economy are clearly shown to be affected by processes of globalization and mobility. However, existing patterns of national economic development – including the expansion of the tourism industry – have failed to alleviate the social and environmental problems faced by relatively powerless members of the Jamaican society. In contrast, the most effective responses to this situation have involved stakeholder groups negotiating and breaking down entrenched scaled relationships through the mobilization of particular forms of social networks.