[Event] BelMix Seminar Series-2023(II): 3

“Tourism, Entrepreneurship, Gender, and Intimacy: Case Studies from Zanzibar and Cuba”

A Female “White Peril”? Tourism and the Reshaping of Masculinity in Zanzibar

by Altaïr Despres (CNRS research fellow, Institut des mondes africains – IMAF; French National Centre for Scientific Research – CNRS)

Investing in Love in Cuba. Cuban-Italian Couples in Havana: Tourism, Entrepreneurship and the Negotiation of Masculinities

by Tommaso Pirone (PhD researcher, Laboratoire interdisciplinaire de sociologie économique – LISE; Conservatoire national des arts et métiers – CNAM)

Date: Monday 4 December 2023, 11am – 1pm (Brussels Time).

Venue: Room AW1.125 (Building A, entry W)

(see the map at the end)

Campus Solbosch, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB)

AND also live streamed online via Zoom.


A Female “White Peril”? Tourism and the Reshaping of Masculinity in Zanzibar

In Zanzibar, the bodily and sexual practices of white women (either tourists or expatriates) have recently been described as predatory and responsible for perverting local morals. More specifically, white women have been held responsible for the emasculation and feminization of Zanzibar’s male youth, locally known as beach boys, who engage in compensated intimate relations with them. In this presentation, I look at the anxiety expressed about what might be called a female “white peril” to analyze the transformations of masculinity in Zanzibar. I argue that sexual relations between white women and Zanzibari men show the capacity of young Zanzibaris to recompose the balance between the two traditional axes in the construction of masculinity, namely economic power and sexual performance. While the economic power of Zanzibari men has suffered from capitalist globalization, sexual potency and expertise, as well as competition between men for access to women’s bodies have become key aspects of affirming masculinity.

(Reference: https://doi.org/10.1177/14661381211002548)

Investing in Love in Cuba. Cuban-Italian Couples in Havana: Tourism, Entrepreneurship and the Negotiation of Masculinities

In Havana, casas particulares, guesthouses run by Italian-Cuban couples, illustrate the importance of intimate ties in economic investment. Cuba’s socialist system, recently opened to tourism and private enterprise, restricts access to international players. Italian entrepreneurs marry Cuban partners in order to settle in Havana and open a casa particular. This traditional Cuban bed and breakfast, in which the domestic space of binational couples coexists with the working space of tourists, is a privileged place for analyzing the sexual division of labour.  In the daily management of the business, I observed that Italian owners tend to conform to the “breadwinner” model of masculinity, reproducing intersectional race, gender and class dominations. On the other hand, to succeed in business, they must negotiate with Cuban partners who can rely on cultural and social capital to reshape the unequal balance. Focusing on these intimate negotiations in a Southern, post-colonial and post-socialist context can deepen our understanding of masculinities and transnational conjugal relations.


Altaïr Despres is a junior researcher in anthropology at the CNRS and a member of the African worlds Institute (IMAF). Her current research looks at the role of globalization in the transformation of local norms of gender, love, and sexual and marital practices in East Africa. She is also investigating the processes of socialization involved in transnational intimacies. She is the author of Zanzibar (Julliard, 2023), a novel inspired by fieldwork she conducted in the Tanzanian archipelago between 2015 and 2020. 

Tommaso Pirone is a PHD student at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Métiers in Paris. His research project focuses on transnational entrepreneurship, looking at Cuban-Italian couples living in Havana. Using an ethnographic approach, he explores the links between North-South migration, tourism and gender in order to analyze the socio-economic impact of globalization in Cuba.

New venue (exceptionally):

Cite this blog post
Cai Chen (2023, November 27). [Event] BelMix Seminar Series-2023(II): 3. BelMix. Retrieved February 25, 2024, from https://doi.org/10.58079/lwwq