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‘Tourism gentrification’: the case of Dayan (the old Town) in Lijiang, China

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  • Full or part time
    Prof L Lees
    Dr M Wilde
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)
    Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

Project Description

‘Tourism gentrification’ is an emerging subfield of gentrification studies asserting that uncontrolled and non-inclusive tourism development policies can have detrimental effects on the livelihoods of local communities and threaten the authenticity of historic areas. Yet ‘a conceptualization of how this phenomenon occurs has not been fully considered’ (Cocola-Gant, 2018:281). The proposed PhD seeks to address this gap by conceptualizing ‘tourism gentrification’ in Lijiang Old Town, in Yunnan, China, a renowned World Heritage Site.

China has been chosen because a. there have been no studies of tourism gentrification there to date, b. Chinese cities came to the gentrification game late and tended to demolish old buildings and replace them with new-build ‘mega-gentrification’, it is only in recent years that historic preservation and heritage have become part of Chinese gentrification practices (Lees, et al, 2016), c. following this recent shift in urban conservation practices in China, historic cities have become popular attractions for Chinese tourists (Xie & Heath, 2017). Although there have been no academic studies of gentrification in Lijiang to date, trip advisor calls it ‘a major tourist attraction in China, bringing with it modernisation and gentrification’. Of course as Lees et al. (2016) have argued it is this complexity of modernisation and gentrification (crucially gentrification in the West has been seen as anti-modern/ist) that makes Chinese gentrification contextually different. Lijiang is a post-socialist city and there is also an emerging literature looking at how gentrification plays out differently in a post socialist context. The transition from state ownership to market forces, the ensuing rapid modernization and urbanization, and the construction of a middle class as a national project, are all important factors.

Chinese gentrification scholar He (2012) talks about the demise of thriving authentic Chinese old towns and the rise of an ostentatious middle-class/elite town ‘whitewashed by historical and cultural icons’. She discusses how low income residents’ rights to live and work in the central city are overridden by the claims of a growth seeking state and emerging middle class. This PhD will investigate both the displacement of authenticity due to tourism gentrification and the displacement of low income groups.

Entry requirements

Applicants are required to hold/or expect to obtain a UK Bachelor Degree 2:1 or better in a relevant subject. The University of Leicester English language requirements apply where applicable.

How to apply

The online application and supporting documents are due by Monday 21st January 2019.
Any applications submitted after the deadline will not be accepted for the studentship scheme.
References should arrive no later than Monday 28th January 2019.
Applicants are advised to apply well in advance of the deadline, so that we can let you know if anything is missing from your application.

Required Materials:

1. Online application form
2. Two academic references
3. Transcripts
4. Degree certificate/s (if awarded)
5. Curriculum Vitae
6. CSE Studentship Form
7. English language qualification

Applications which are not complete by the deadline will not be considered for the studentship scheme. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure the application form and documents are received by the relevant deadlines.

All applications must be submitted online, along with the supporting documents as per the instructions on the website.

Please ensure that all email addresses, for yourself and your referees, are correct on the application form.

Project / Funding Enquiries

Application enquiries to [Email Address Removed]
Closing date for applications – 21st January 2019

Funding Notes

This research project is one of a number of projects in the College of Science and Engineering. It is in competition for funding with one or more of these projects.

Home/EU Applicants:

This project is eligible for a fully funded College of Science and Engineering studentship that includes:

• A full UK/EU fee waiver for 3.5 years
• An annual tax free stipend of £14,777 (2018/19)
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)

International Applicants:

This project is eligible for a College of Science and Engineering studentship that includes:

• A full international fee waiver for 3.5 years
• Research Training Support Grant (RTSG)

International candidates must be able to fund their living costs for the duration of the studentship.


1. Cocola-Gant, A. (2018) Tourism gentrification, in Lees,L. with Phillips,M. (2018) (eds) Handbook of Gentrification Studies, Edward Elgar, pp.281-293.
2. He,S. (2012) Two waves of gentrification and emerging rights issues in Guangzhou, China, Environment and Planning A, 44:12: 2817-2833.
3. Lees,L., Shin,H. and Lopez-Morales,E. (2016) Planetary Gentrification, Polity Press: Cambridge.
4. Shin,H., Lees,L. and López-Morales,E. [guest editors] (special issue) (2016) Locating Gentrification in the Global East, Urban Studies, 53(3).

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