Love and Empire: Cybermarriage and Citizenship across the Americas

Love and Empire: Cybermarriage and Citizenship across the Americas

Love and Empire: Cybermarriage and Citizenship across the Americas

Love and Empire: Cybermarriage and Citizenship across the Americas

Synopsis

The spread of the Internet is remaking marriage markets, altering the process of courtship and the geographic trajectory of intimacy in the 21st century. For some Latin American women and U.S. men, the advent of the cybermarriage industry offers new opportunities for re-making themselves and their futures, overthrowing the common narrative of trafficking and exploitation.

In this engaging, stimulating virtual ethnography, Felicity Amaya Schaeffer follows couples' romantic interludes at "Vacation Romance Tours," in chat rooms, and interviews married couples in the United States in order to understand the commercialization of intimacy. While attending to the interplay between the everyday and the virtual, Love and Empire contextualizes personal desires within the changing global economic and political shifts across the Americas. By examining current immigration policies and the use of Mexican and Colombian women as erotic icons of the nation in the global marketplace, she forges new relations between intimate imaginaries and state policy in the making of new markets, finding that women's erotic self-fashioning is the form through which women become ideal citizens, of both their home countries and in the United States. Through these little-explored, highly mediated romantic exchanges, Love and Empire unveils a fresh perspective on the continually evolving relationship between the U.S. and Latin America.

Excerpt

Latinas are famous for their natural beauty, warm personality and
family loyalty. Only in Latin America can you find a woman who
is more tolerant, understanding, faithful, and true to the idea that
marriages are forever.
—international marriage broker web page

Without a doubt, passion is our citizens best raw material.
—Colombian Tourism Ministry ad campaign, “Colombia Is
Passion”

[Cosmetic] surgery is a way to invest in myself, invest in my future.
—Colombian participant at the Vacation Romance Tour

Latin America’s association with abundant love and sexual passion continues to structure gendered opportunities, mobility, and citizenship. Over 200 international marriage broker (IMB) websites, advertising romance and marriage between U.S. men and Latin American women, lure in male viewers with pictures of young women in skimpy swimsuits, bracketed by luscious tropical settings, casting salacious glances at the Internet viewer. Women’s bodies have long figured as the seductive force of regional and national trade, enticing investors and travelers from colonial times to current tourism brochures and, more recently, Internet marriage websites. In particular, the global marketing of women on cybermarriage websites borrows from Latin American tourism and investment campaigns, especially the most recent branding of one country’s best resources, titled “Colombia Is Passion.” With the goal of uplifting its global image, Colombia exports a respectable middleclass image of the nation’s gendered labor force through a video campaign depicting giddy shots of light-skinned married couples, alluring beauty queens, a sharply dressed woman speaking into a company headset, and the . . .

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