Society for Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
This project will provide an ethnographic analysis of young Kichwa men’s participation in the booming Amazonian ecotourism industry around Tena, the provincial capital of Napo, Ecuador. Preliminary fieldwork revealed that engagement in ecotourism, and particularly the increasing opportunities that ecotourism has created for intimate encounters with foreign females, is having a profound impact on how young Kichwa men present themselves as indigenous individuals and as men. For example, long hair (which is rarely seen among older indigenous men in this region), frequent assertions of being close to nature, and the demonstration of knowledge of rainforest flora and fauna, indicate new preferences for highlighting certain aspects of their “wildness” and special connections to nature. This is a dramatic turnaround from previous generations of Kichwa men, who strove to demonstrate how much modern they were than other indigenous groups in the area. The proposed research will illuminate the notions that drive (mostly white) female tourists' desires for short-term sexual intimacy; the ways in which indigenous men – particularly tour guides – have responded to these still relatively new economic and intimate opportunities; and the ways these encounters are slowly shifting understandings of indigenous masculinity and sexuality among the broader population. Thus, it will promote a better understanding of the forces at play in tourist/local encounters, emphasizing Western imaginations of indigenous people and the power these imaginations have or do not have to influence indigenous cultures and identities. It will also contribute to a small but growing literature on changing indigenous masculinities.