Erica Williams

Last Thursday Professor Erica Williams was present to discuss her book Sex Tourism in Bahia, an investigative work exploring the taboos of sex tourism in Brazil. Professor Erica Williams gave a short summary regarding the contents of her book and then let the class share questions. What was really interesting in our discussion was the range of questions explored and the subsequent analysis of sex tourism’s current state in world affairs. In addition we discussed the role of race in sex tourism and the prevalence of the Afro-Brazilian ethnicity in sex related institutions. Sex Tourism in Bahia is an unabashed look into the world of race, socio-economic status, and globalization.

= I found it interesting that some of the sex workers considered their job empowering and furthermore embraced their role in society. Additionally I find it curious that the Bahia region of Brazil contains such a high percentage of sex workers, and wonder what factors ultimately contributed to Bahia’s current state of affairs. Some questions remain unanswered including the role NGOs played in the lives of sex workers and the trans nationality of sex tourism and sex law. Moreover Sex Tourism in Bahia makes one contemplate the culture of masculinity and femininity both in Brazil and the world.

Professor Williams also discussed the local culture of Bahia, explaining the tradition of machismo and longstanding institution of patriarchy. Despite the description of Bahia’s patriarchal societal and political system, Professor Williams did not contextualize or further explain this subject on a larger regional or global scale. It would have been interesting to compare the sex industry in the region of Bahia to other parts of Brazil or even to the United States /other parts of Latin America. Ultimately by the end of the discussion the class had more questions than answers.

Although I found the book to be well written, I was disappointed with the class discussion. One critique I have was the way in which Professor Williams dodged questions and at times simply redirected the flow of conversation. Moreover I found Professor Williams to lack knowledge contained within her book, at times having to reread passages in order to answer our questions. It is understandable that an individual who has written numerous books, not remember certain aspects of past research, yet the sheer amount that professor Williams did not remember surprised me. By taking such a diplomatic stance with the questions asked, Professor Williams effectually nullified intellectual dialogue, choosing to adhere to a predetermined narrative. Furthermore it was surprising that Professor Williams, not give an explanation or definition regarding the nature of ethnographic research and her overall goal. Despite these shortcomings I was glad that the class had some opportunity to discuss aspects of Professor Williams research.

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