Political Uses of Landscape in Tourism Discursive Production in the City of Florianópolis

Maria Helena Lenzi

Nowadays the city Florianópolis, capital of Santa Catarina State in South Brazil is among the main tourist destinations in the country’s coastline[1]. Advertised as a city of beautiful landscape, where nature and urbanization blend harmoniously, Florianópolis has in tourism one of its main sources of income, besides high technology industry and building construction.

Aiming at analysing political uses of landscape in tourism discursive production we notice that its valorisation and a so-called valuation of nature walk hand in hand in this city and, as historical constructions, they have been re-signified according to environmental, urban, economic and tourist policies.

We explore landscape in terms of Duncan (1990) and Duncan & Duncan (1984, 2001), that is, as a discursive construction, a system of meanings whose social practices gain sense and thus can be conveyed. In order to operationalize this approach, we started off with the notion of intertextuality by Foucault (1996, pg. 155), according to which it is necessary to analyse “[…] comment les différents textes auxquels on a affaire renvoient les uns aux autres, s’organisent en une figure unique, entrent en convergence avec des institutions et des pratiques, et portent des significations qui peuvent être communes à toute une époque.” In other words, this analysis opens up to the relation between discursive and non-discursive elements, present in others authors attuned to the New Cultural Geography. Likewise, as Duncan (1990) and Rose (2005) state, for the landscape study, intertextuality articulates texts to their production contexts.

In the early 70’s, the “tourism industry”, was already recognized as promising due to its expressive financial movements worldwide, and started to be included in State government projects for the capital economic growth and urban development. In the following decade tourism not only consolidated itself as the most prosperous economic activity but also emerged as “city’s vocation”, and has been strongly adopted, since then, in cities master plans, besides tourism and economic development plans.

Within this context, landscape was recognized and advertised as the city’s main tourism product, particularly because of its expressive set of natural ecosystems. The publication of the Resorts Master Plan in 1985 was a major event in this process once it declared all island resorts as “Special Area of Tourist Interest”, appointed the whole of its landscape – its mangroves, dunes, lagoons, sandbanks and slopes – as economic or natural resources, that must be preserved in order to ensure present and future touristic flow.

During the 90’s entrepreneurs of tourism sector united to foster the growth of this activity through foundations, institutions and non-profit organizations that would conduct Florianópolis tourism development. So public power assumed a secondary role and was invited to take part in entrepreneurship planning, and tourism became a private activity that undertook initiatives throughout the city (JANUÁRIO, 1997). The actions of entrepreneurs were advertised through newspapers as actions for all, for the sake of development, preservation of nature and a better quality of life in the city.

And it has been within this context in which tourism is practically a private policy that the notion of sustainable development has been disseminated in Florianópolis. This consolidates a hegemonic reading of landscape, legitimated by urban and touristic planning entities that, by using concepts of environmental discourse in a rhetoric manner, with arguments based on the conscious and “sustainable” use of nature on behalf of future generations and biosphere itself, promote not only the city’s marketing, but also strategies of elitism and expelling of the poor, along with all those who do not comply with private parameters of what “sustainable” is like (ACSELRAD, 2009).

Although it is hegemonic and has become an image advertising of the city, this reading of landscape is not the only one and has been constantly contested by social-environmental movements who see in it rather a form of consensus production that has nothing of environmental or ecologic, neither is concerned with the city as a whole. Thus, this landscape that turns into a touristic product does not do it because of a vocation, but as the fruit of a network, a fabric of social relations that see in Florianópolis’ landscape only a single possible reading. However, as it is result of choices and political arrangements, it also produces tensions and can be questioned and modified.

[1] The city of Florianópolis has 436.4 km2 of which 426.6 km2 correspond to its insular part and 12.1km2 to its continental part. It is situated between coordinates 27o10’ and 27o50’ of south latitude and between 48o25’ and 48o35’ of west longitude, with a humid subtropical climate and presents ecosystems the Atlantic Forest Biome (Map 1).


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[1] La ville de Florianópolis possède 436,4 km2, dont 426,6 correspondent à son territoire insulaire et 12,1km2 de partie continentale. Située entre 27o10’ et 27o50’ de latitude sud et entre 48o25’ et 48o35’ de longitude ouest, un climat subtropical humide y abrite des écosystèmes du biome de la Forêt Atlantique (Carte 1).


Maria Helena Lenzi
Supervisor: Adyr Balastreri Rodrigues
Université de São Paulo