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Cultural Economic Landscapes of Yacht Care and the Making of Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Authors: Benjamin Smith*, Global and Sociocultural Studies
Topics: Landscape, Economic Geography, Coastal and Marine
Keywords: Landscape, Ocean Geography, Economic Geography
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2020
Start / End Time: 2:10 PM / 3:25 PM
Room: Virtual Track 2
Presentation Link: Open in New Window
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


While many scholars have focused on how post-World War II American landscapes were centered around automobiles – producing distinct geographies for their production, sale, use and maintenance – this paper instead chronicles and contextualizes the cultural economic landscapes of another type of consumer transport: the yacht. As objects go, the yacht is amongst the items most associated with spaces of luxury lifestyles (see the work of Emma Spence), but compared with watches, clothes and even cars and houses, they are defined by their comparative un-portability within the landscapes of everyday terrestrial life. Unless you live on coastal waters, it cannot be kept at your place of residence at ready use, and at the extreme end, its maintenance, use and storage can run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Furthermore, unlike cars and homes, the expertise needed to provide care is not distributed ubiquitously across the landmass or even coastal areas – it is highly concentrated.

As this paper demonstrates, Fort Lauderdale explicitly grew from the mid 20th century onward to provide those concentrated landscapes. This includes everything from housing developments full of canals designed with the boat owner in mind, through hundreds of businesses ranging from dry docks and marinas to insurance brokers and marine canvas sellers, to hosting the world’s largest marine trade show. While this paper speaks to developments in ocean and economic geographies, it primarily shows how sometimes a single object can create a cultural economic landscape far bigger than its actual size.

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