This course takes a close look at what it means for the most intimate of relationships to be formed at a transnational scale. In recent decades there has been a dramatic increase in people crossing borders to engage in sex, find work in other’s households, or form families. We will examine several of the most common of these types of relationships, including: sex tourism, trafficking in women and children, international domestic work, transnational adoption, interracial marriage, and so-called “mail-order brides.”
We will learn about historical antecedents to the current globalization of sex and family and ask why these relationships are experiencing such a dramatic increase in recent decades. Economics, war, political relationships, media images of others, changes in fertility and marriage patters, etc. will all be considered as factors. We will investigate the difference it makes to definitions of kinship, family, romance, sexuality, gender, racial identity, health and other personal domains when people cross borders to form intimacies.
Readings for the course will be interdisciplinary. We will read several monographs, including ethnographic and social scientific studies, fiction, as well as personal accounts and memoirs. Articles and films will also give a vivid sense of what it is like for persons engaging in such transnational intimacies. Do people who travel long distances for work, sex or marriage maintain family ties at “home” or do they make new homes for themselves? How do people engage in emotional and/or sexual intimacy across barriers of culture, language, class, and race? What kinds of stigma, exploitation or inequality might be generated through the globalization of intimacy? What are the costs of such phenomena? Are there gains? Do such new intimacies have something to teach us about the future?