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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Gringo love : affect, power, and mobility in sex tourism, Northeast Brazil Carrier-Moisan, Marie-Eve


This dissertation is a feminist ethnography of global sex tourism in Ponta Negra, a tourist area in the coastal city of Natal, Northeast of Brazil that has become the site of important forms of mobilization against sex tourism. It critically examines the ambiguous relationships of love and money between (white) western male tourists and (mixed-race or black) Brazilian women. The methods for the project (conducted 2007-2008) focused on in-depth interviews with Brazilian women, European men, and various stakeholders such as business owners, residents, Non-governmental organization (NGO) workers, feminist activists and state agents; the author also conducted participant-observation in bars and at beaches. She theoretically situates these global ‘sex tourism’ relationships within contemporary political economic structures, historical processes of inequality in Brazil, gendered patterns of mobility and affect, as well as sites of global desire. A major theme in this thesis concerns the politics of the rescue industry as articulated by Brazilian NGOs and through campaigns against sex tourism, which typically locate the problem of sex tourism in the individual (i.e. women as victims; foreign men as deviants). This approach fails to address the complex structural inequalities and global forces that shape the lives of these women, and negates several important aspects of Brazilian women’s and foreign men’s experiences. This research shows that both are invested in ambiguous intimacies that blur affect and interest in complex ways. The main argument in this thesis is that Brazilian women in Natal capitalize on the ambiguities of sex tourism and put their femininity to work in order to establish long-term, legitimate ties with foreigners in the hope of migrating to Europe and marrying up, something they find hard to imagine, much less experience, in Brazil. The appeal for foreigners further reveals a profound sense of dissatisfaction with their social locations. Thus, love with foreigners acts as both an escape and a catalyst to remake themselves as modern subjects in projects of mobility, whether social, spatial or economic.

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