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Leaving Only Footprints: Sonya Grier on Tourism and Gentrification

Feb 25, 2021

Sonya Grier talks with Traveling Culturati host Ja’Vonne Harley about the relationship between tourism and gentrification.

“What does gentrification really mean?” asks Traveling Culturati host Ja’Vonne Harley of her first guest, Aristotle Theresa. Theresa describes his experience and perceptions, including that there may be different types of gentrification that spawn from government intervention or a type that maybe happens more organically.  Harley posits, however, that gentrification and tourism are also connected and, in the latter half of her podcast, speaks with Sonya Grier to get to the bottom of this relationship.


The interview begins with a discussion of Grier and co-producer Vanessa Perry’s inspiration for the “Dog Parks and Coffee Shops” project. She describes a trip down DC’s U Street corridor one Saturday night that exposed the pair to a wide variety of cultural groups who, though they existed in the same space, were not interacting with one another.


Dr. Grier then discusses how the process of gentrification can ultimately lead to residents getting pushed out of their homes and neighborhoods. It starts with the changes in consumption opportunities: “We get types of stores and coffee shops and dog parks that are targeted towards the newcomers as opposed to those that might be targeted towards the needs and desires of the people who already live here.” Harley agrees and states that a change like this is “really catering to the visitor and not the resident.”


Following a robust discussion of gentrification and faux diversity, the two continue to discuss how a visitor might perpetuate these changes in consumption opportunity by patronizing businesses that cater toward them as opposed to residents of the area they are visiting. Grier and Harley offer ideas on being a mindful visitor, whether travelling domestically or internationally.


Listen to the episode, “Tourism’s Impact on Gentrification,” on Spotify or PodBean.