Signal 3: Ethnographic experiences in the American theme park industry


This dissertation investigates the social, political and historical dimensions of the American theme park industry. Specifically, the research seeks to ethnologically analyze the "American theme park" as a multi-faceted space of socio-cultural formation, reformation, contestation and representation. Through a multi-sited approach, the thesis investigates theme parks, both extinct and extant, from the everyday perspectives of patrons and workers, in the closed rooms of designers, managers and elite decision-makers, and in the numerous spaces of material culture, multi-media representation and design which so makeup the place of study. The ethnographic research is based on two-years of participant-observation at a major American theme park, where the author was a trainer, as well as two years of subsequent research in over twenty additional theme parks and amusement venues, like Las Vegas casinos, throughout the country. As "edge work," the author investigates the complexities of representation, authorship and fieldwork as they emerge in a textual and performative scene of writing and evocation, ultimately challenging distinctions of ethnography and fiction

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This paper was published in DSpace at Rice University.

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