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Ethno-erotic Economies explores a fascinating case of tourism focused on sex and culture in coastal Kenya, where young men deploy stereotypes of African warriors to help them establish transactional sexual relationships with European women. In bars and on beaches, young men deliberately cultivate their images as sexually potent African men to attract women, sometimes for a night, in other cases for long-term relationships.
George Paul Meiu uses his deep familiarity with the communities these men come from to explore the long-term effects of markets of ethnic culture and sexuality on a wide range of aspects of life in rural Kenya, including kinship, ritual, gender, intimate affection, and conceptions of aging. What happens to these communities when young men return with such surprising wealth? And how do they use it to improve their social standing locally? By answering these questions, Ethno-erotic Economies offers a complex look at how intimacy and ethnicity come together to shape the pathways of global and local trade in the postcolonial world.
About the Author
George Paul Meiu is assistant professor of anthropology and African and African American Studies at Harvard University.
“Forms of sex that were unheard of, unorthodox circuits of money, and new ways of asserting one’s belonging: Meiu has a true talent for bringing out the unexpected articulations that make present-day developments in Africa so challenging. New opportunities teach Samburu morans to use their ostentatious masculinity for making money on the Kenyan beaches with dramatic consequences back home. Ethno-erotic Economies is a fascinating study not only because of its theme but also due to the eloquent interaction between vivid ethnography and seminal interpretations.”
— Peter Geschiere, author of The Perils of Belonging: Autochthony, Citizenship, and Exclusion in Afric
“Ethno-erotic Economies is a brilliant book—beautifully written, ethnographically rich, and theoretically provocative. Meiu explores the radical and rapid changes in Samburu economies, sexualities, and gender and generational relations with sensitivity, empathy, and an astute analytical sensibility. This is a must-read for scholars and students alike in African studies, sexuality studies, and anthropology.”
— Dorothy Hodgson, author of Gender, Justice, and the Problem of Culture
“Ethno-erotic Economies is a stunning ethnographic achievement. Meiu’s exploration of how ethnicity, gender, money, and intimacy shape dynamics of belonging and value in contemporary Kenya speaks to important debates in African Studies, queer studies, and anthropological inquiry in the broadest sense.”
— Tom Boellstorff, author of A Coincidence of Desires