Book review: Sex tourism in Bahia: ambiguous entanglements
Demovic, Angela R.
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Race, Wealth, and the Specter of Ambiguity (Williams's Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements) Sex Tourism in Bahia: Ambiguous Entanglements by Erica Lorraine Williams Review by: Angela R. Demovic Current Anthropology, Vol. 56, No. 2 (April 2015), pp. 296-297
The Bahian capital of Salvador is an Afro-Brazilian cultural tourism site that has been called a “Black Mecca” (3). It is also a destination for sex tourism. Sex workers are part of the touristscape, the sites where “the tourism industry is a central focal point … (and) the many people who occupy and move through these spaces” (6). Sexual labor that fulfills racist desires has become a dominant component of tourists’ imagination of Brazil, and has broad implications for interactions across the touristscape. The intersectionality of cultural heritage, sex tourism, and racism provide the backdrop for Williams’s ethnography of hosts and guests in the sexual economy of Salvador. Williams begins with extensive literature reviews of Bahia’s historic role in the country’s economy and the history of tourism in Brazil. She then turns to the complex literature on race, ethnicity, and identity in Brazil, criticizing the discourse of “racial democracy” (54). Though such ideology has fostered appreciation of Afro-Brazilian culture, the realities of Afro-Brazilian people’s lives reflect continued racial discrimination. Sex tourists’ desires, Williams suggests, are based in a racial essentialism, a construction of the hypersexual Other. Sexually desiring a hypereroticized Other does not erase, but rather confirms, racism.
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