Listening to urban seaside gentrification
: Living with displacement injustices on the UK south coast

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


The English urban seaside presents an important research site that has undergone waves of re-imaginings from gentry resort to mass tourism through decline to nostalgic regeneration. This distinct landscape, with its liquid temporalities, imaginings and mobilities, offers a unique opportunity to reinvigorate understandings of gentrification, displacement and its injustices. Finding an interdisciplinary and pandemic-responsive way of generating distinct knowledge, this research asks what can listening with residents on the UK south coast tell us about urban seaside gentrification and displacement injustices?

This thesis offers the conceptualisation of listening-with, as a form of participatory listening research, to methodologically reinvigorate and conceptually reframe urban seaside gentrification and its injustices. Developing a socio-sonic-mobile methodology, I remotely supported twenty-two residents living in Brighton, Worthing and St Leonard-on-Sea through listening walks, listening-at-home activities and elicitation interviews during fluctuating lockdowns in 2020. I argue by listening-with residents we can hear the distinct social, spatial and mobile processes producing gentrification as it increasingly permeates neighbourhood life along the south coast. Participants are making sense of their changing neighbourhoods through engaging with existing seaside and gentrification narratives, revealing fixed spatial imaginaries of the urban seaside and gentrifying spaces. Through interrogating their plural listening positionalities, participants’ differentiated displacement experiences become audible, including the ways they are navigating its spectrum and positioning themselves in relation to its injustices. Listening to displacement therefore reaches across past personal encounters, present feelings of culpability and future fears of an increasingly exclusionary coastline.

Oriented by a feminist, anti-colonial and participatory ethos, this project sits at the intersection, and makes contributions to, the fields of gentrification, displacement, sound, mobilities, in/justices and the seaside. Taking a mobilities ear, I create a framework for understanding displacement injustices drawing on theories of social (Young, 1990), spatial (Soja, 2010) and mobility justice (Sheller, 2018). Inspired by sound scholars (Anderson & Rennie, 2016; Robinson, 2020), I have developed a set of methodological resources encompassed by listening-with that includes a creative listening analysis approach, layered soundmapping and sound stimuli typology. However, my listening approach goes beyond a methodological contribution in arguing for the epistemic role of listening in knowledge production and practices. Through listening-with residents, I have identified four key resonating motifs that constitute urban seaside gentrification: the significance of “seasideness”; the dynamics of coastal liquidity (Burdsey, 2016); the mutually supportive relationship of tourism and gentrification; and features from across all five waves of gentrification.
Date of AwardAug 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Brighton
SupervisorDaniel Burdsey (Supervisor), Lesley Murray (Supervisor) & Sarah Leaney (Supervisor)

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