The ethnographic 'scene' of cosmopolitan urban centres like Rio de Janeiro is perhaps characterized more by the rapidity of social change, the physical movement of people, and constant shifts in the directions and modalities of cultural, political, and ethnic affiliation than by anything else. Exactly what constitutes the object of study for ethnographers interested in 'culture', 'subcultures', or 'local' knowledge becomes increasingly difficult to define and operationalize in such contexts. The application of ethnographic methodologies to the study of populations in movement necessarily requires a redefinition of some basic concepts in anthropology ( Appadurai, 1990, 1991; Abu-Lughod, 1990, 1991). Ethnographic research in urban areas must take into account the scales of distance and speed at which change occurs without losing sight of the social and cultural institutions which serve to ground these shifts in the activities of everyday life. The 'red light' districts of Rio de Janeiro are linked to globalized systems of commerce and migration and at the same time they are embedded within the institutions of urban life in Brazil. In the case of male sex workers, homophobia is one of the cultural elements which links social and physical spaces, structuring movement between and within them. Sex workers in Rio de Janeiro live and work in a space which is bounded as much by social and cultural practices that traverse national boundaries as by demarcations of neighbourhoods, cities, or countries. This essay will address the relationship of individual sex workers, male prostitutes in the cases I will examine, with a complex of cultural systems which simultaneously instigates and curtails their movement both within and across national borders.
Appadurai has used the term ethnoscape to refer to the'... landscape of persons who make up the shifting world in which we live: tourists, immigrants, refugees, exiles, guests workers, and other moving groups and persons [which] constitute an essential feature of the world...' ( 1991: 192). The sex industries of the world's major metropolitan centres, especially those which are destinations for both tourists and business travellers, present complicated and important cases for understanding the impact of global processes on local social and cultural institutions. Such theoretical work is necessary for understanding what, if any, importance these nodes of commercialized sex have with respect to the current AIDS pandemic. If