Graduation Year


Document Type

Open Access Senior Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Environmental Analysis

Reader 1

Zayn Kassam

Reader 2

Francisco Dóñez

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© 2016 Nia P. McAllister


Ecotourism is a rapidly growing global export industry that aims to uphold the ethics of responsible tourism by engaging with local communities and encouraging environmentally conscious travel. With existing critiques of the greenwashing of ecotourism and the tendency for tourism agencies to exploit host communities, I advocate for participatory community-based models of ecotourism. This thesis explores both the material and conceptual benefits of community-based ecotourism through the critical examination of community-based ecotourism projects in Rio de Janeiro Brazil. Focusing on the implementation of ecotourism in of some of Rio de Janeiro’s peripheral communities, areas that are impacted by social and spatial marginalization, this thesis argues that the cultural and environmental history of a location are inseparable. When ecotourism is participatory and community-based, it can be a method for sharing cultural and environmental knowledge. Exploring the parallels between environmental justice toxic tourism and community-based ecotourism, this thesis examines the extent to which ecotourism can be used as a tool for social justice, serving to valorize the land histories and lived experiences of communities. Beyond generating money for host communities, the case studies of participatory ecotourism demonstrate the potential for ecotourism to serve as a platform for advocating for land rights in historically marginalized communities.