July 31, 2008
37 illus.
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November 14, 2011
37 illus.
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Shaping the Shoreline

Fisheries and Tourism on the Monterey Coast

The Monterey coast, home to an acclaimed aquarium and the setting for John Steinbeck's classic novel Cannery Row, was also the stage for a historical junction of industry and tourism. Shaping the Shoreline looks at the ways in which Monterey has formed, and been formed by, the tension between labor and leisure.

Connie Y. Chiang examines Monterey's development from a seaside resort into a working-class fishing town and, finally, into a tourist attraction again. Through the subjects of work, recreation, and environment — the intersections of which are applicable to communities across the United States and abroad — she documents the struggles and contests over this magnificent coastal region. By tracing Monterey's shift from what was once the literal Cannery Row to an iconic hub that now houses an aquarium in which nature is replicated to attract tourists, the interactions of people with nature continues to change.

Drawing on histories of immigration, unionization, and the impact of national and international events, Chiang explores the reciprocal relationship between social and environmental change. By integrating topics such as race, ethnicity, and class into environmental history, Chiang illustrates the idea that work and play are not mutually exclusive endeavors.

About the Authors

Connie Y. Chiang is assistant professor of history and environmental studies at Bowdoin College.


"Chiang deftly shows how these two competing economies [fishing and tourism] were deeply entangled, how they developed and how they both perpetuated racial and class hierarchies and rested upon an edifice of immigrant labor. In a book that refreshingly blends the history of tourism and industry over the course of a century, Chiang rejects 'oversimplified dualities' and 'simple dichotomies.'."—American Historical Review

"In Shaping the Shoreline, historian Connie Chiang skillfully illuminates the importance of 'place,' and in this instance, 'contested place,' with her exhaustive analysis of California's Monterey Coastline. While her book focuses primarily on the social and environmental implications of both tourism and fishing on the Monterey Coast, readers are subtly reminded throughout of the contested nature of the place both industries wished to control."—Journal of Social History

"The book is well written, well researched, lively, and interesting throughout, with useful maps, extensive notes, a substantial biography, and an index. From the standpoint of a fisheries economist, all the world's current and past battles over fisheries and fisheries policy appear here in microcosm."—Southern California Quarterly

"Chiang's study is worthy of readers' time. It engages the best of contemporary social and environmental scholarship. Its narrow geographic scope is easily offset by its broad conceptual grasp and long chronological sweep. The volume is a fine addition to the strong line of works edited by William Cronon and should find good purpose in the hands of researchers, students, and even the ecotourism-consuming public."—Montana: The Magazine of Western History

"Connie Chiang's Shaping the Shoreline is an ambitious attempt to connect the social and environmental histories of the Monterey, California, region. . . .Her focus on a discrete region adds to the book's richness and is a good model for future work that explores places defined by economies that have transformed from natural resource exploitation to recreation."—Western Historical Quarterly

"A superb account of how multiple types of interactions between fisheries and tourism shaped the development of the Monterey region . . . . Scholars of many stripes— certainly business, labor, social, and environmental historians——— will benefit from reading Chiang's account. Well written and logically organized."—Business History Review

"In Shaping the Shoreline, Connie Y. Chiang uses [Monterey's] diverse community and its divergent industries to craft an excellent environmental history. Yet this is not merely a history of Monterey, tourism, or the fishing industry. It is a history of the complex and often-hidden relationship between labor and leisure in America. In Monterey—- and many other places—- the boundaries drawn between labor and leisure obscure underlying connections that tie human societies to nature and link us to each other. In highlighting those connections, Shaping the Shoreline gains significance far beyond Monterey."—Journal of American History

"Not only is Shaping the Shoreline very readable, but with luck it will provoke further serious thought and study about the social influences at work in this area."—Salinas Californian

"Represents an important new direction in maritime and marine environmental history. Chiang's study lays out a clear mandate that to understand coastal communities one must explore labour, culture, and environment . . . for each of these fields played fundamentally transformative roles in how coastal communities developed and changed. In short, Shaping the Shoreline is a book that has the potential to shape the field, and anyone interested in maritime topics will enjoy and benefit from its pages. ."—International Journal of Maritime History


"Today the Monterey Bay Aquarium publicly embraces both fish and tourism within the confines of an old cannery. The two histories have coexisted for years, and they spawned a diverse and divided society. Therein lies Connie Chiang's fascinating and revealing story of the people of Monterey and the sea that gave them life."—Richard White, Stanford University

"A compelling narrative that is, at once, a social history of Monterey and an environmental history of the region that begins at the turn of the century and ends in the present day."—Carol McKibbenDirectorSeaside History Project and, author of Beyond Cannery Row

"Shaping the Shoreline brilliantly explores—and explodes—the dualities that have long defined not only Monterey but also American thinking about the natural world: work vs. play, white vs. non-white, tourism vs. industry, nature as spectacle vs. nature as worksite."—Karl Jacoby, Brown University

"For two decades, scholars have been calling for environmental histories that pay as much attention to changes in human social relationships as to changes in the natural world. Shaping the Shoreline demonstrates the value of such an approach with great subtlety and insight by exploring how the curiously intermingled worlds of commercial fishing and elite tourism created one of the most celebrated and sought-after communities on the coast of California."—William Cronon, University of Wisconsin

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