The BelMix seminar series for 2023-2024 delves into the multifaceted and dynamic realm of cross-border relationships, intimacy, gender reconfigurations, and kinship transformations. It aims to document the anthropological, historical, psychological, and sociological dimensions that shape these interconnected processes. The seminar will unite researchers from various academic institutions, each of whom will contribute unique perspectives onto the intricate landscape of intimate relationships across borders. Their empirical investigations span diverse contexts including Africa, Asia, the Caribbean region, and Europe. This seminar series will therefore offer a rich variety of approaches and insights that will collectively illuminate the general tendencies in cross-border relationships. It will provide a platform for stimulating discussions and scholarly exchanges on theoretical and methodological questions surrounding these relationships, which will create opportunities for future collaborations and collective endeavors.
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.
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.
The aim of the event is not only to foster dialogues between researchers and social/state actors but also to find a common ground on which to prepare a toolkit to provide assistance (legal, psychological, practical…) to Asian migrants who find themselves in a situation of domestic violence in Belgium.
Date: Friday 8 December 2023, from 2 pm to 5 pm (Brussels Time).
Venue: Room Kant (Institute of European Studies-IEE) Campus Solbosch, Université libre de Bruxelles (ULB) 39 Av. Franklin Roosevelt 1050, Brussels
This compendium of stories on spaces is the fruit of long-term collaboration among the members of the BelMix research team, based at the Laboratory of Anthropology of Contemporary Worlds (LAMC) at the Université libre de Bruxelles. The team has been studying migration and conjugal mixedness in Belgium and selected Southeast and East Asian countries. Recently, BelMix has expanded its analytical gaze to include other cases and situations of mixedness beyond the Europe-Asia social spaces. It aims to bring new insights into the dynamics and evolution of present-day societies as well as the changing meanings of intimacy and the family.