Seeking Friends With Benefits In A Tourism-Based Sexual Economy: Interrogating The Gambian Sexscape
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
Social and Cultural Anthropology
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AbstractThis dissertation engages with the driving motivations behind the actions of all those involved in The Gambia’s tourism-based sexual economy: the Gambian and other West African male and female sex workers, the Global North (habitually European) male and female tourists, the Gambian and expatriate Lebanese bar and restaurant owners, the Gambian state, and the semesters (members of the Gambian diaspora on vacation in The Gambia). It presents thick ethnographic accounts of interactions with Gambians and tourists, as they form temporary couples or friendships for the duration of tourists’ vacations, and sometimes for longer. This ethnography-rich dissertation pays careful attention to Gambian voices, which have been somewhat marginalized in the limited literature on sex tourism in The Gambia. It theorizes the existence of a Gambian sexscape, within which socio-sexual scripts are performed. The socio-sexual scripts that make the Gambian tourism-based sexual economy are re-located within Gambian society’s larger sexscape, which allows for a better consideration of the wider socio-economic, cultural, and political processes that have led to the formation of contemporary Gambian society. The dissertation briefly outlines The Gambia’s political and economic history, which explains the ongoing economic dependency and the importance of emigration for contemporary Gambian youth who want to escape the abject poverty in which too many live. It proposes a descriptive analysis of the Gambian sexscape and its socio-sexual scripts. Greater precision is given to the socio-sexual scripts that make the tourism-based sexual economy: chanters and white Global North female tourists; Gambian female sex workers and white Global North male tourists; Gambian men who have sex with Gambian men/semesters, and/or with white Global North male tourists. Finally, I adopt a socio-ecological approach to sexual health and examine the tourism-based sexual economy’ s impact on the country’s sexual health.