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 looks at one aspect of this change in Frontier Intimacies: 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. Inviting broader examination of the ways in which contemporary frontier economies are constructed and experienced, Frontier Intimacies brings a captivating new perspective to the economic development of the Chaco region.
Paola Canova is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.
[A] highly engaging and original work...Paola Canova offers significant new insights in her beautifully detailed account of situated lives and transgressive, racialized desires in one of the continent’s most remote and legendary regions. We come away with admiration for the profound ways in which indigenous peoples, and specifically women, are negotiating the brute force of capitalist commodification of bodies and things in this complex, masculine liminal space of the South American Chaco.
~Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
This is undoubtedly an ethnography of great significance and impact, both for the field data collected and for the author’s analysis, which allow us to explore one of the many ways in which indigenous modernities are constructed in a context of sharp economic and sociocultural change. Above all, Canova’s book helps to place current indigenous women, with their practices, their experiences, and their discontents, on the center of the stage.
~Journal de la Société des américanistes
A remarkable ethnography that shows precisely what anthropology is capable of doing: illuminating worlds that seem irrational or unsavory and helping the reader see the logic behind them.
~Nancy Postero, University of California, San Diego, author of The Indigenous State: Race, Politics, and Performance in Plurinational Bolivia
In Frontier Intimacies Paola Canova offers an insider’s grasp of colonialism in Paraguay’s Central Chaco to counter the distant gaze of analyses that have assigned curajodie (Ayoreo women that "match intimate relations with economic transactions”) to the 'suffering slot.’ Without shying away from the multiple and interlocking forms of racialized and gendered violence and inequality that characterize life in this ‘frontier,' the book offers a vibrant ethnography of Ayoreo women’s affirmation of agency against the odds. An invaluable contribution to thought in times of #NiUnaMenos and #metoo.
~Mario Blaser, Memorial University of Newfoundland–St John's, author of Storytelling Globalization from the Chaco and Beyond
Pleasant to read...Frontier Intimacies is an excellent ethnography relevant not only for those specialized in Ayoreo or the Chaco but also for those interested in frontier dynamics, with its intertwinement of violence and agency, exploitation and conspicuous consumption, affective bonds and racialized desires.
~Journal of Anthropological Research
This book is an invaluable contribution to knowledge of how extremely marginalised communities develop strategies to function in spaces in which, despite the power of the dominant culture, they develop and perform their own ways to understand gender, labour and sexual intimacy challenging the moral assumptions and economic rules of the dominant society.
~Bulletin of Latin American Research
Introduction: An Economy of Intimate Transformations
Chapter 1. Drawing Boundaries
Chapter 2. Liminal Masculinities
Chapter 3. Labor Exclusion
Chapter 4. Commodifying Sex
Chapter 5. Consuming Desire
Chapter 6. Negotiating Inclusion
Conclusion: Toward an Intimate Frontier
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