Ruth Elizabeth Goldstein

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Wisconsin, Madison, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10372

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Goldstein, Ruth (U of Wisconsin) "Trafficking in Femininity: Nature, Culture, and Gender along the Interoceanic Highway"

In 2000, the presidents of Brazil, Peru, and Bolivia signed an agreement to construct the Interoceanic Highway, part of the Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA). The project was supposed to bring economic development to the shared triple-frontier Amazonian region. Instead of bringing the promised benefits, the highway instead facilitates illegal trade in natural resources ‘ medicinal plants and gold ‘ and a traffic in women. A common ‘joke,’ framed as a riddle, echoes throughout rainforest goldmines: ‘What is the difference between a mine and a woman?’ The most common answer is: ‘Nothing, because both are for exploitation.’ Drawing on extensive fieldwork conducted along the Interoceanic Highway, ‘Trafficking in Femininity’ analyzes the entangled political economies of cis and trans women destined for the sex-trade, feminized medicinal plants and gold, asking: How do infrastructure projects facilitate human and environmental extraction, reorganizing political economies of gender, kinship and care? Engaging an analytic and method of ‘traffic,’ I argue that this 3500-mile highway project has deeply gendered effects, expediting the traffic in women and natural resources, gendered female. This project underscores that the markets for women, plants, and gold, aren’t just intersecting phenomena, but rather, co-constituted economies.