Graduation Year

2011

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Ph.D.

Degree Granting Department

Geography and Environmental Science and Policy

Major Professor

Kevin W. Archer

Keywords

Celebration, central Florida, tourism, urban geography, urban revitalization, Walt Disney World

Abstract

This study is primarily about the theory of uneven geographical development. In an era when it is proclaimed that, through globalization, the world has become flat, the unevenness of economic and social development is often overlooked or suppressed. As the nexus between global and local processes, the urban space often becomes the site of conflict between those defining the hegemonic narrative of the space, from a global and flat perspective; and those experiencing heterogenous local narratives, whose uneven positions are reinforced by this hegemonic narrative.

This study explores the conditions of uneven geographical development in the urban space of central Florida. Focusing primarily on the Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID), better known by much of the world as Walt Disney World, and on Celebration, the community developed by the Disney Corporation in the 1990s, the relationship between urban development and tourism, the defining economic sector in the region, are explored in the context of space-place, global-local narratives.

This is done using the four conditions of David Harvey's Theory of Uneven Geographical Development. First, the history of sociopolitical processes within the urban space are explored as creating a framework upon which contemporary uneven geographical development could be built. Second, the development and continued power of the RCID in central Florida are examined within the context of accumulation by dispossession. Third, Celebration as a consumed company town is examined in the context of accumulation across space-time. Finally, the relationships between the RCID and Celebration, and the rest of the central Florida region, are developed in the context of struggles occurring simultaneously across multiple scales.

This study shows that the theory of uneven geographical development applies well to a region that is heavily dependent upon the tourist sector for its economy, and thereby works to control the narrative of that space to continue attracting consumers. It also shows that, while the theory of uneven geographical development works well for a space that is a primary global tourist sink, it needs additional theoretical sophistication in order to better suit rapidly changing global processes.

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