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Bob Willis awarded 2015 Jacob Mincer Award for Lifetime Contributions to the Field of Labor Economics

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psc brown bag iconThe Embodiment of Tourism: Sexual Performance and HIV/AIDS Among Dominican Tourism Workers

Mark Padilla (School of Public Health and Department of Anthropology, University of Michigan)

01/12/2009, at noon in room 6050 ISR-Thompson.

While theories of "structure" and social inequality have increasingly informed global health efforts for HIV prevention-with growing recognition of the linkages between large-scale political and economic factors in the distribution and impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic-there is still little theorization of precisely how structural factors shape the very bodies and sexualities of specific populations and groups. In order to extend the theoretical understanding of these macro-micro linkages, this article examines how the growth of the tourism industry in the Dominican Republic has produced sexual practices and identities that reflect both the influence of large-scale structural processes and the resistant responses of local individuals. Drawing on social science theories of political economy, embodiment, and authenticity, this article argues that an understanding of patterns of sexuality and HIV risk in the region requires analysis of how political-economic transformations related to tourism intersect with the individual experiences and practices of sexuality on the ground. The analysis draws on long-term ethnographic research with bisexually-behaving male sex workers in two cities in the Dominican Republic, including participant observation, in-depth interviews, focus groups, and surveys. By examining the global and local values placed on these men's bodies and the ways sex workers use their bodies to broker tourists' pleasure, we may better understand how the large-scale structures of the tourism industry are linked to the specific meanings and practices of gender and sexuality.


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