Set in a Mennonite colony of Paraguay's remote Chaco region, this book tracks the lives and contested practices of indigenous Ayoreo women who commodify their sexuality, exposing the fractured workings of frontier capitalism.
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.
“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 Bolivi