Transformation of Racialized American Southern Heritage Landscapes - Butler, ALderman, bright, carter, hanna, modlin, & potter (2014-2018)

$445,423 Grant. National Science Foundation, Geography and Spatial Sciences.

Plantations are one of the widely recognized and racially charged symbols of the southeastern US play an important role in the region’s tourism industry. The sites have traditionally remained silent about the lives and struggles of the enslaved community. But, recent evidence indicates they are increasingly bringing the struggles front and center. This transformation has been under-analyzed.

This NSF-funded research provides a lens to explore the manner and extent to which Southern plantations are incorporating the history of slavery, the challenges they face in doing justice to the memories and identities of the enslaved, and how visitors and plantation management and staff interpret and shape the narration of those memories. The RESET team conducted intensive fieldwork at plantation sites in Louisiana, South Carolina, and Virginia to interview plantation owner/operators and docents; observe, survey and interview tourists; and do content analysis of guided tours of the plantation landscape. It is the first study to look at multiple stakeholders, as well as plantation sites and management types. Achieving civil rights and racial reconciliation in America requires discussing the central but controversial place that slavery has in the nation's history. This assumption undergirds this project’s creation and the team’s desire to actively engage tourism managers and assist them in developing strategies for fully and critically incorporating slavery into plantation museum sites.

Traveling While Black: Storytelling Through Twitter - Dillette, Benjamin, & Carpenter

African Americans in the United States have long since been confronted with harassment and discrimination while traveling due to segregated lodging, restaurants, and other leisure activities.  However, African Americans/Blacks are one of the fastest growing tourist groups. This work builds on previous research on the Black travel experience analyzing over three hundred tweets using the hashtag #travelingwhileblack through a critical race theory (CRT) lens. By analyzing how Black tourists are traveling, this study reveals how experiential knowledge of Black travelers can contribute to the learning environment of the tourism industry. Three emergent themes were identified: (1) occurrences of racism (2) awareness of being Black while traveling and (3) meaningful experiences traveling while Black, suggesting that experiential knowledge of travelers of color brings different perspectives, that will hopefully, move toward eliminating all forms of subordination and create a more just society.

Inclusion vs. Accessibility: How does the tourism industry stack up? - Benjamin, Bottone, Oleniak, & Loebner

Underrepresented populations including people of color, LGTBQ, and people with disabilities, are growing markets in hospitality and tourism and make a significant economic impact on the industry.  However, many of these minority groups are not properly represented in tourism marketing materials that traditionally cater toward White, cisgender, heterosexual and able-bodied men that perpetuate a White male touristic gaze (Alderman, 2013).  This study focuses on people with disabilities since this minority is a fast-growing tourism sector that also includes the aging baby boomer generation.  We are exploring how travel brochures from southeastern Destination Marketing Organizations are being inclusive toward people with disablities. 

Tourism as a demand reduction strategy for pangolin trafficking: Inspiring an ethic of care among college students - Kline, Benjamin, & Wagner

Pangolins are the most trafficked mammal in the world.  Their scales, made of keratin, are desired for medicinal and decorative reasons.  Their meat, and the meat of their fetuses, are considered a delicacy because of their endangered status and are therefore offered at upscale restaurants.  The demand is especially high in China and in Vietnam, where pangolin meat is ordered to celebrate the signing of a contract or to impress an important client. All eight species of pangolins are listed as either "critically endangered," "endangered" or "vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (Red List of Threatened Species).  “In August 2013, more than six tons of live pangolins were seized as they headed from Indonesia to Vietnam in a shipping container labeled as frozen fish, fins and fish bones…. In April 2013, a Chinese fishing vessel was found carrying as many as 2,000 of the toothless creatures, after the vessel ran aground in the protected Tubbataha Reefs off the coast of the Philippines, according to the World Wildlife Fund.” (Gannon, 2014, para. 5).  In addition to threatening an important part of the ecosystem, wildlife trafficking has been associated with weapons trafficking, human trafficking, and the funding of terrorist groups (Mackenzie, 2013).   Changing the demand dynamics concerning pangolins requires a shift in values. The emergence and future impact of the Millennial generation may represent the shift in values necessary to halt the extirpation of pangolins. Although, today’s Millennial generation has been accused of being narcissistic, shallow, and self-absorbed (Benckendoff, Moscardo, & Murphy, 2012), they may also represent the necessary cultural shift towards sustainability and embrace alternate value orientations towards the natural world. This chapter is about inspiring and mobilizing college students (Millennials) to consider ways of abating wildlife trafficking, particularly through efforts related to tourism.  During the Spring 2016 semester of the course Sustainable Tourism offered at Appalachian State University, a regional university in the Appalachian Mountains of the U.S., students worked in groups to develop viable initiatives addressing pangolin trafficking.  The culmination of the projects was a final presentation to a panel of judges who critiqued the concepts and implementation plans based on their viability as projects that could be implemented.  Reflections from the students are offered as data toward the question of whether is it possible among college students who are busy young adults negotiating demands, pressures, and parameters of modernity to invigorate an ethic of care about a remote and foreign animal.



Kelly Westfield and Dr. Amy Potter are researching on a small number of house museums in the city of Savannah, Georgia.  They are taking steps to create more inclusive histories of their sites, especially as it relates to slavery. This project seeks to not only document these site’s transformations but also to engage with visitor perceptions and understandings of urban slavery. Most of the research on slavery focuses on plantation tourism sites, whereas this research will expand our understanding to include slavery in urban settings.