Frontier Intimacies: Ayoreo Women and the Sexual Economy of the Paraguayan Chaco

Thursday, November 18, 2021 12:30

A guest lecture by Professor Paola Canova of the University of Texas, Austin.

Abstract:  Until the 1960s, the Ayoreo people of Paraguay's Chaco region had remained uncontacted by the world. But as development encroached on their territory, the Ayoreo began to experience rapid cultural change. Paola Canova’ recently published book, Frontier Intimacies, looks at one aspect of this change: the sexual practices of Ayoreo women, specifically the curajodie, or single women who exchange sex for money or material goods with non-Ayoreo men, often Mennonite settlers. Weaving personal anecdotes into her extensive research, Canova shows how the advancement of economic and missionary frontiers has reconfigured gender roles, sexual ethics, and notions of desire in the region. Ayoreo women, she shows, have reappropriated their sexual practices, approaching intimate liaisons on their own terms and seeing the involvement of money not as morally problematic but as constitutive of sexual encounters. By using their sexuality to construct an intimate frontier operating according to their own logics, Canova reveals, Ayoreo women expose the fractured workings of frontier capitalism in spaces of rapid transformation.

Held on Zoom:  https://mcgill.zoom.us/j/83111058124

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