My research work until now has mainly focused on various scales and spaces of political actions around gender and sexuality, including for my doctoral research, which consists of an ethnography of sex tourism in Northeast Brazil. More recently, I have expanded this work into an examination of the campaigns against sex tourism/sex trafficking associated with the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, a project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. My engagement with the anthropology of gender and with various scales and spaces of political actions has also led me to examine practices of femininity in roller derby in a new research project that is in its initial stage, and tentatively titled Derby Girl as Riot Grrrl? Negotiating Femininities in Women’s Flat-Track Roller Derby.
In addition, my research interests fall within the following largely defined areas: –
- Gender and sexuality;
- Ethnography of Brazil/Latin America;
- Visual Anthropology;
- Global tourism;
- Sexual labours and sex worker movement;
- Affect and Labour;
- Emotions, especially public emotions, the politics of emotion;
- Activism and mobilisation around gender and sexuality issues;
- Racialization and Sexuality.
Since 2003, I have based my work in the Northeast of Brazil, examining the intersections of gender, mobility and globalization. My PhD dissertation, Gringo Love: Affect, Power, and Mobility in Sex Tourism, Northeast Brazil, is an ethnography of global sex tourism in the beach of Ponta Negra, a tourist area in the city of Natal, Brazil. In it, I examine the role that ‘gringo love’, or love with foreigners, plays for Brazilian women, based on extensive observation and in-depth interviews. I argue that the strong appeal of Brazilian women for European male tourists bespeaks a profound sense of dissatisfaction with the failed promises of the state, market, and local gender arrangements. Thus, for local Brazilian women, love with foreigners acts as an escape away from the hardship of their lives, while simultaneously providing a catalyst to remake themselves as modern subjects through projects of social, spatial, and economic mobility.
The campaigns against sex tourism
A major theme in my work concerned the politics of what Laura Agustín terms the “rescue industry” (i.e. attempts to ‘save’ migrant sex workers). I analyze the campaigns against sex tourism in Natal, especially as they intersect with various political interests and as they result in exclusionary spatial practices affecting mostly young, racialized, and marginalized Brazilian women. The paradoxes of these campaigns, and the broader implications they bear on thinking the possibilities and limits of feminist activism in new political spaces across Latin America, is part of a recently published collaborative book with Pluto Press, Contesting Publics: Feminism, Activism, Ethnography (2013) with Sally Cole, Lynne Phillips and Erica Lagalisse. I continue to examine these campaigns and their renewed salience with the advent of the World Cup 2014 in Natal. Currently, I am working on adapting my findings on the campaigns against sex tourism into a Graphic Novel.
In my spare time, I began practicing roller derby – a contact sport that was revived in Austin, Texas in 2001 and that has seen, since then, a significant increase in its popularity across the world. Seduced by this counter cultural movement associated with the punk scene and the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos, I realized roller derby was also in the process of becoming increasingly incorporated into the mainstream, as exemplified by its consideration for inclusion in the 2020 Olympic Games. Moving from Vancouver to Ottawa, I also discovered that roller derby takes on different meanings in different cultural spaces, and became fascinated with the ways in which femininity is negotiated in this contact sport that plays on the image of the rough yet sexualized woman. I’m currently in the initial stage of a new research project that will examine how, in various sites across Canada, derby players negotiate between the DIY subculture that resists normative gender norms and the push toward establishing the respectability and legitimacy of the sport through conventional expressions of femininity.