On Island Time: A place-based identity in Dauphin Island, Alabama
Type of Degreethesis
Geology and Geography
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Dauphin Island, Alabama is a small barrier island to the south of Mobile and Mobile Bay. All along the Gulf Coast are popular tourist attractions at places like Gulf Shores and New Orleans. My thesis research will look at what makes Dauphin Island different from these booming tourist destinations. I trace the community’s history and culture to illustrate how it displays a present day shared identity of what the island should look and feel like in opposition to traditional tourism development approaches. With the obvious benefits of an industry such as tourism, how does anyone justify withholding such a potential opportunity? In this project, I describe how and why Dauphin Island is not likely to become the traditional Gulf Coast vacation spot anytime soon. My results in this thesis come from efforts in qualitative research. I conducted interviews with town officials, local residents, and tourists to draw my conclusions of Dauphin Island. I also accessed archived and recently published materials to illustrate the changes on Dauphin Island over time. This thesis analyzes the way Dauphin Island has developed. Although the island does offer beaches, sun, and sea life, what it does not offer are several tourists’ amenities that many modern day Americans deem necessary for a vacation destination. Through a shared social memory, locals strive to promote ecotourism and a more family oriented atmosphere. I have found that locals maintain Dauphin Island’s identity as stuck in the golden era of the 1950s. As potential for development abounds, the island remains the same only changing when Mother Nature demands it.