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Mobile OrientationsAn Intimate Autoethnography of Migration, Sex Work, and Humanitarian Borders$
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Nicola Mai

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780226584959

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226585147.001.0001

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Burning for (Mother) Europe

Burning for (Mother) Europe

(p.91) Five Burning for (Mother) Europe
Mobile Orientations

Nicola Mai

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 5 draws on original research with young men working as “professional fiancés” in the tourist sex industry in Tunisia. Drawing on the author’s autoethnographic experience as a tourist who unexpectedly became a researcher, the chapter problematizes the presumed vulnerability and exploitability of local people within public and academic debates concerning “sex tourism.” By working as ‘professional boyfriends’ in the intimate economy emerging around the tourist industry in Sousse, local young men try to own the material, economic and social terms of their ‘mobile orientations’ - the socio-cultural alignments of models of personhood, mobilities and objects framing their subjectivities. By performing love to female tourists and by migrating as their spouses young men in Tunisia attempt to embody late modern individualised and consumerist lifestyles. They become successful adult men by forming transnational families abroad while providing for their families at home. Chapter 5 also analyzes the making of Mother Europe, the second film in the author’s Sex Work Trilogy, which is about a young Tunisian “professional fiancé” performing love to female tourists. The film explores the material and sociocultural dimensions as well as the politics of visibility that frame the encounter between tourism and intimate forms of labor in Tunisia.

Keywords:   Tunisia, tourist sex industry, intimate labour, migration, agency, vulnerability

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