Illegal at Home

According to Stephen Gregory in The Devil Behind the Mirror: Globalization and Politics in the Dominican Republic (U of California P, 2006), citizenship is a

“technology of power” that enables the tourism police to enforce a kind of social hygiene on the behalf of tourists, who do not want to be irritated by vendors or beggars. This exclusionary mechanism depends on the cédula, or national ID, which one must have in order to get formal work, such as selling goods in the zona playera. According to a recent report, more than a quarter of Dominicans – not to mention Dominicans of Haitian descent, none of whom qualify for citizenship by law – lack proper papers. In a country with few job opportunities even for the documented, the effects of this are devastating. [Emphasis added]

Gregory apparently also develops a notion of “imperial masculinity” which underpins sex tourism and, I would hazard to guess, a great deal more.

I have been quoting from Pablo Morales’ review of Gregory’s book in the March-April, 2007 NACLA Report on the Americas (40:2): 45-47.

Axé.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “Illegal at Home

  1. i have to think about this for a bit.

  2. My lunch partner today didn’t understand it. Born there, of Dominican parents, and undocumented? Yes, because of not having had resources to get birth certificates, correct registration cards, etc., and digging that information up years later, or proving it years later if you weren’t born in a hospital, is more difficult and expensive still. What is the elites’ interest in this situation? Being able to underpay these people, as we do undocumented foreign workers here.

    I think it’s (like) a legacy of slavery – the DR having had a huge slave population back in the day. Slaves don’t have the rights of citizens and neither do these people, probably direct descendants of slaves. Yet another way in which slavery is not really over: its tentacles reach to the present.

  3. You write, “Gregory apparently also develops a notion of “imperial masculinity” which underpins sex tourism and, I would hazard to guess, a great deal more.”

    The problem with the idea that imperial masculinity underpins sex tourism is that many women, probably 24,000 a year by my estimates, also engage in sex with foreign men while traveling.

    One could partly agree that their membership in vibrant Western economies confers some of the historical power of the conqueror on these traveling women, or you could equally conclude that a war between the sexes in their home countries spurs both men and women to travel elsewhere to seek affection.

  4. Well, one of my more conservative friends thinks it is because they do not feel they have to tell their priests about having sex if it takes place in a foreign country! I’d point out that there is as much of a ‘war between the sexes’ elsewhere as here. Also, I am sure it would be possible to pay a desperately poor young man for sex here, and get plenty of affection.

    Anyway, I have seen your book blurb, and I hope you’re not commenting here just to advertise that text. This site is worlds away from your book. The language of the blurb treats people as products: “[the book] presents original research on the top countries that U.S. women visit to find husbands, as well as the drawbacks and advantages of the men available in most touristed regions of the world.” [Emphasis added] I don’t mind discussing cars in those terms, but human beings? Oy veh.

    It’s fine to have actual romances, marriages, or, as far as I am concerned, just plain old sex with foreigners, people of other races, etc., and I’d consider an interesting young foreigner before I did a middle-aged Bubba any day, but I do find sex for hire problematic – not because it is unromantic but because of the power differential. (And no, I am not among those who believe prostitutes are ’empowered’.) I also do not think ‘ladies’ filling charter jets flying to exotic countries for the purpose of finding younger lovers is a revolutionary activity.

    I actually think of buying sex or “affection” from impoverished foreigners the way I think of buying babies from poor people and calling it adoption: if you’re actually concerned about them, kick them $50 a month and it will make a huge difference, don’t take their baby.

    In graduate school we were supposed to love Helena Parente Cunha’s novel Mulher no Espelho for its French and post-structuralist feminism, but when the main character finally reached orgasm after her divorce, with a strong and well endowed Afro-Brazilian favelado, and this was supposed to be not only feminist but anti-racist, we groaned. It was/is hackneyed and exploitative as far as I’m concerned, even if Cunha’s heroine is sexually deprived and even if she did spend strangled years in an airless upper middle class marriage.

    In any case, relevant questions would be: if 24,000 women per year engage in sex tourism, how many men do? To what other power structures is the whole enterprise connected? Gregory’s book is about the underside of ‘globalization’ as seen in the DR, and he looks at the dynamics of sex tourism as one part of it.

    Here is the rest of Morales’ paragraphs on ‘imperial masculinity’ and sex tourism. The person he quotes is Gregory.

    This [sense of imperial masculinity] comes across when [Gregory] observes a group of off-duty U.S. Army men – statonned in the country, he is told, to keep an eye on Cuba – being introduced to a pair of young prostitutes at a bar.

    “Their interactions with the women (groping and […]) … were theatrically performed so as to incite the collective participation of the men, (through laughter, […]).” This homosocial dynamic fueled the men’s interaction with the prostitutes, even as their economic power reinforced their positioning of “Dominican women as docile bodies.” (47)

    You see? Colonized and colonizing men – (pimp and soldiers) – both on the lower rungs of their own social ladders to be sure – identifying with power and shaking hands, as it were, over the bodies of these women. Homosocial behavior strengthening the bonds between men as they pin these women below them, as the transnationals they serve do the same to the global South.

  5. I also do not think ‘ladies’ filling charter jets flying to exotic countries for the purpose of finding younger lovers is a revolutionary activity.

    No it is not a revolutionary activity. See “The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone,” circa, 1961

  6. The movie (Roman Spring…) http://www.amazon.com/Roman-Spring-Mrs-Stone/dp/B000EBD9TO
    sounds fascinating and the novella it is based on must be, too.

    What they seem to have in common with the Cunha novel is interesting exploration of inner deserts of these bereaved womens’ lives/psyches. Where, yes, the affairs they have would be balm to old wounds. Which still does not mean that having those affairs is any sort of challenge to existing sociopolitical structures.

    And again, I do not know where this Belliveau gets the idea that such activity is new, breaks a ‘taboo’ that hasn’t been broken before, etc.

  7. I’m just a bit…is this: One could partly agree that their membership in vibrant Western economies confers some of the historical power of the conqueror on these traveling women

    supposed to be a good thing? I’m just curious here. Is it good that these women can be seen bringin the “power of the conqueror”? Is this posed in some way as…being positive? Because it feels all wrong to me, if you are talking about honestly and humanely empowering people.

    and cero, i think you are right. it is a slavery. no two ways about it. just finessed a bit.

  8. I think she means that would be a bad thing, if true, but that these women are up to something else (recovering from First World sexism through the adoration of Third World men, I presume).

    Recovering victims in a way, sure, but also using elite status to get that cure from less elite people – who really need the money.

    Slavery, then: keeping workers undocumented is slavery.

  9. okay. thanks. that struck me very odd.

    yet, i dont see how one heals the other.

  10. It doesn’t – it’s a fake cure – it makes each one worse.

  11. Tom

    “they do not feel they have to tell their priests about having sex if it takes place in a foreign country! ”

    True, but while travelling be very careful never to have extramarital sex in a U.S. embassy or consulate, or a U.S.-flagged ship. Because in that case St. Peter will zap you.

  12. He’ll only zap us as long as the current Administration is in power. And even then, he won’t zap Republicans.

  13. Tom

    lol, good point!

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