Faculty & Staff Details

Mary Mostafanezhad

Mary Mostafanezhad, Assistant Professor

Degree: Ph.D., University of Hawai‘i at Manoa, 2011.

Office Location: Saunders Hall 415
Phone Number: (808) 956-0653
Fax Number:
Email: mostafan@hawaii.edu

Courses Taught

GEOG 102 - World Regional Geography

GEOG 330 - Culture and Environment

GEOG 460 - Geographies of Popular Culture

GEOG 4XX - Geographies of Consumption

GEOG/ANTH 610 - Cultural Geography of Tourism

GEOG 757 - Cultural Geography


I am a human geographer broadly interested in understanding the role popular geopolitical discourses play in contemporary forms of market-based environmentalism, humanitarianism and development interventions. My research examines the implications of these practices through the theoretical lenses of critical geopolitics, political ecology and cultural studies across four contexts: 1) tourism; 2) agro-food initiatives; 3) international development and humanitarianism; and 4) transboundary environmental governance. Through ethnographic research, I highlight connections between popular culture, tourism and socio-economic and environmental change and how these transformations mediate everyday geopolitical experience in the Asia-Pacific region. In this way, my work bridges cultural, political and economic geography by examining the theoretical and practical implications of consumer-driven movements as a response to global economic, ecological and social inequality.

My current research moves into new interdisciplinary terrain through an integrative study of tourism, development and socio-environmental change across two distinct geographic sites. In mainland Southeast Asia, I examine the political ecology of transboundary haze and environmental governance and the interrelated livelihoods of rural agriculturalist and urban tourism practitioners in the region. This project engages with new scholarship on cross-border environmental politics, tourism development and agrarian transitions. In Hawai'i, my work considers the value and viability of agro-food initiatives and contextualizes these agendas within the broader shifting political economy of agriculture in the state.

My past work has examined various forms of tourism as an international development strategy in Southeast Asia. Taking as a case study trekking tourism in northern Thailand, my early research contributed to new conceptualizations of authenticity and the cultural politics of intimacy in tourism encounters. I further developed these theorizations through my examination of volunteer tourism in Thailand. Published as a research monograph, Volunteer Tourism: Popular Humanitarianism in Neoliberal Times (Routledge, 2014), this work ethnographically explores the complexities and contradictions of the volunteer tourism experience and the industry in which it is situated. I draw on multidisciplinary perspectives to illustrate how a focus on sentimentality throughout the volunteer tourism encounter obscures the structural inequalities on which the experience is based and situate such tourism practices and imaginaries within the broader global political economy of market-led development initiatives.

Through an examination of how discourses of popular humanitarianism mediate the ongoing redefinition of North-South relations, this work also links the growth of volunteer tourism with recent trends in celebrity humanitarianism. This work contributes to emerging conversations around the role of popular geopolitical discourse in development and humanitarian interventions, which are increasingly co-opted by new forms of market capitalism. Collectively, this scholarship seeks to reinvigorate tourism and development geographies through ethnographic inquiry into everyday geopolitical experience, asking how new forms of mobility support, challenge and transform geopolitical discourse and practice.

The Department of Geography's regional strengths in Asia and the Pacific Islands are what draw many students to our engaged community of students and faculty. My work enriches this geographic focus and examines how tourism, popular culture and geopolitical discourse contribute to socio-economic and environmental change. As one of the largest and fastest growing industries in the world, globally employing one out of 11 people and constituting some 30 percent of services and exports, tourism mediates a beguiling range of social, political, cultural and environmental contexts. I am excited to continue working with graduate students who share common interests in these integrative fields of geographic inquiry and topics of pressing global concern.

Major Book Publications

Mostafanezhad, Mary, Norum, Roger, Shelton, Eric and Thomspon-Carr, Anna. Eds. 2016. Political Ecology of Tourism: Community, Power and the Environment. New York: Routledge.

Kevin Hannam, Mostafanezhad, Mary, Rickly-Boyd, Jillian. Eds.2016. Event Mobilities: The Politics of Place and Performance. New York: Routledge.

Rickly-Boyd, Jillian, Kevin Hannam, Mostafanezhad, Mary. Eds. 2016. Tourism and Leisure Mobilities: Politics, Work and Play. New York: Routledge.

Suzanne Finney, Mostafanezhad, Mary, Guido Pigliasco, and Forest Young. Eds. 2015. At Home and in the Field: Ethnographic Encounters in Asia and the Pacific Islands. Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press.

Mostafanezhad, Mary and Hannam, Kevin. Eds. 2014. Moral Encounters in Tourism. London: Routledge.

Mostafanezhad, Mary. 2014. Volunteer Tourism: Popular Humanitarianism in Neoliberal Times. London: Routledge.