Hallman Lecture: Whiteness, Women and Sex Tourism

Tuesday, July 24, 2018 3:30 pm - 4:30 pm EDT (GMT -04:00)

Professor Donna Chambers

Professor Donna Chambers examines female sex tourism in the post-colonial world through the lens of whiteness theory.

Full abstract

In this presentation, Professor Chambers conceptualizes and interrogates female sex tourism to the postcolonial world through the lens of whiteness theory.

Professor Chambers argues that extant research on female sex tourism has failed to sufficiently explore issues of race using critical insights from whiteness studies and is thus under-theorized. This lacuna is surprising given that most female sex tourists to the Global South are white Western women.

Ruth Frankenberg, a pioneer of the postdisciplinary field labelled “white studies”, argued that race is not only of relevance for black women, but that it also shapes white women’s lives. For Frankenberg, “white women’s senses of self and other, identity and worldview are also racialized” (1993, p. 239). She used the term “whiteness” to describe a set of three interlinked dimensions – (1) a location of structural advantage, or race privilege (2) a standpoint or place from which white people look at themselves, others and society and (3) a set of cultural practices that are usually unmarked and unnamed (1993).

Frankenberg suggests further that whiteness is not an empty signifier, but is instead a “daily experience of racial structuring” (p.1). Whiteness thus becomes normalized and is rendered invisible. Professor Chambers goes on to suggest that in sex tourism, whiteness theory can be used urge white women to reflect on their own racial identities and culture, the privileges that accompany them, and importantly, how this serves to legitimate racial inequalities in the sexual experience.

This raises two contentious arguments at the heart of Professor Chambers’ conceptual discussion: (1) whiteness underpins female sex tourism and perpetuates racial inequalities; and (2) the structural privilege associated with whiteness enables female sex tourists to disrupt traditional gendered constructions during liminal postcolonial tourism encounters.

Donna Chambers

  • Professor of Tourism in the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism at the University of Sunderland, UK
  • Recognized internationally as a leading critical tourism and leisure scholar whose work has contributed significantly to advancing social justice perspectives

  • Member of the editorial board of Leisure Studies, an Associate Editor of Annals of Tourism Research, and a lay member of the Central University Research Ethics Committee of the University of Oxford

Join us for her talk on July 24 from 3:30 - 4:30 p.m., with cash bar reception to follow.

The Hallman Lecture is presented by University of Waterloo's Department of Recreation and Leisure Studies, and the Faculty of Applied Health Sciences.