Economies of Desire: Sex and Tourism in Cuba and the Dominican Republic

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Is a native-born tour guide who has sex with tourists—in exchange for dinner or gifts or cash—merely a prostitute or gigolo? What if the tourist continues to send gifts or money to the tour guide after returning home? As this original and provocative book demonstrates, when it comes to sex—and the effects of capitalism and globalization—nothing is as simple as it might seem.

Based on ten years of research, Economies of Desire is the first ethnographic study to examine the erotic underpinnings of transnational tourism. It offers startling insights into the commingling of sex, intimacy, and market forces in Cuba and the Dominican Republic, two nations where tourism has had widespread effects. In her multi-layered analyses, Amalia Cabezas reconceptualizes our understandings of informal economies (particularly “affective economies”), “sex workers,” and “sexual tourism,” and she helps us appreciate how money, sex and love are intertwined within the structure of globalizing capitalism.

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Amalia L. Cabezas is Assistant Professor in the Department of Women's Studies at the University of California, Riverside and co-editor of The Wages of Empire: Neoliberal Policies, Repression and Women's Poverty.

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Economies of Desire is very well written and compelling, drawing us into two historical contexts and illustrating women's agency as they negotiate the economic, political, and social constraints. Cabezas’ many years of field research provide nuance to her analysis, and her critique of the feminist discourse about human rights is completely on target.”—Patricia Zavella, Professor of Latin American and Latino Studies at the University of California, Santa Cruz

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