Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


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First Advisor's Name

Dr. Juliet S. Erazo

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Dr. Andrea J. Queeley

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Dr. Mark B. Padilla

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dr. Miranda Kitterlin-Lynch

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Indigeneity, Masculinity, Ecuadorian Amazon, Ecotourism

Date of Defense



This dissertation offers an ethnographic account of how indigenous Kichwa tour guides in Napo, Ecuador, the vast majority of whom are young men, negotiate the demands and expectations of the ecotourism industry and how, in the process, they produce and enact new understandings of their ethnic, gendered, and sexual identities. These new understandings are reproductive of outsiders’ expectations and fantasies about indigenous Amazonians, as well as personally and culturally meaningful. I engage with a variety of anthropological literatures, including the anthropology of race and gender, the anthropology of indigenous Amazonia, the anthropology of tourism and sex tourism, and the more recent work on the anthropology of “becoming.” My findings revealed that while ecotourism has been widely celebrated as a sustainable source of income for indigenous populations and as an effective avenue to promote the preservation and revitalization of indigenous cultures, many Kichwa individuals working in the Amazonian ecotourism industry often feel compelled to perform sanitized aspects of their identities and to construct commodified versions of their “traditional” practices to satisfy tourists’ quest for an “authentic,” “pre-modern” experience. My findings also revealed a less studied phenomenon resulting from the increasing commodification of indigenous peoples and cultures within tourism settings, namely the sexualization and erotization of indigenous men, especially those who match women tourists’ imaginations of what an indigenous man “should” look like. I show that by entering into intimate relationships with Kichwa men, foreign (mostly white) women feel that they can experience pre-modern forms of gender roles and sexuality, which they imagine are unavailable in their home countries. They also view these relationships as opportunities to consume and be a part (however temporarily) of an overly romanticized Amazonian landscape, of which indigenous people are usually perceived as an indivisible part. On the other hand, I found that Kichwa tour guides view their work in ecotourism as an opportunity to contest their historically marginalized status within Ecuadorian society by showing the white/mestizo majority how cosmopolitan and entrepreneurial they can be. Furthermore, they view their ability to sexually attract foreign women as an opportunity to reassert their masculinity and sexual attractiveness within mainstream Ecuadorian society, in which they have long been considered feminine, subservient, and unattractive. Thus, my dissertation explores how these processes have shaped new ideas and performances of indigenous masculinities and sexualities within tourism encounters, and the impact that these ideas are having on the broader Kichwa population





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