Transnational Intimacies - a Biographical and Ethnographical Study of the Figurations between German Female Tourists and Kenyan Males in Mombasa (Kenya)

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:00
Oral Presentation
Katharina TEUTENBERG, Center of Methods in Social Sciences, University of Göttingen, Germany
My paper is about a phenomenon which is currently referred to as female sex tourism or romantic tourism. Based on the results of biographical and ethnographic research, I will discuss the figurations between female tourists and local men, their (unequal or asymmetric) power balances, and the interrelation between discourses and biographical self-presentations.

While the behavior of sexually active men in countries of the Global South is relatively well researched, little is known about female tourists and their intimacies with local males. In my paper I will focus on the figurations between female German tourists and Kenyan men on the eastern coast of Africa. I will discuss the question of how the involved actors configure and experience their intimate relationships? How do they deal with inequalities and changing balances of power and how do discourses on these relationships influence their biographical self-presentations, in other words how are these discourses perceived, modified or rejected by the biographers?

The research results are based on a combination of participant observations and the analysis of biographical-narrative interviews which were carried out at the Kenyan coast. According to my empirical findings we need to question the simplified representations that dominate the current scientific discussion: while some researchers present the sexual activities of female tourists, in contrast to male sex tourism, as a distinctly different activity, others argue that sex tourism or romantic tourism does not depend on biological sex or gender.

My reconstruction of biographies of women and men shows that both interpretations fail to do justice to the complexity of social reality, and that a deeper understanding of the phenomenon “female romantic or sex tourism” is only possible if one goes beyond the “holiday situation”.