Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities seminar

I’m Kath Browne and I lecture in human geography at Brighton, particularly looking at issues of social justice. I teach about how place matters to social exclusion and my research examines gender and sexual difference. In particular, in my research I look at how women and sexual/gender minorities are marginalized from everyday spaces and how these groups create new and empowering alternative spaces in which to be themselves.

conference official photoI was invited to speak at the Second Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities (II Seminário Latino-americano de Geografia, Gênero e Sexualidades ) seminar in Brazil.

Attended by delegates from around the world the conference focused on increasing the theoretical and methodological field of the Latin American Geography from gender, sexualities and interseccionality approach in its spacial dimensions.

Key subject covered at the conference included: Promoting discussion between researchers from different countries and institutions on gender and sexualities issues Strengthening the scientific production relations between national and international research groups Deepening the knowledge of scientific production that co-relates gender and sexualities with the foundational concepts of geography

You can read more about it in my conference diary

Day eight: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.


Today we took a boat along the Madeira river which is a tributary of the Amazon river. We arrived at a remote village, only accessible by boat. We were greeted with a local shop and some buildings that appeared relatively new. Then we discovered the history and current context of this place. This small village was flooded, during January last year. These floods destroyed housing, health services and businesses and the people took refuge in the Amazon. They came back to rebuild their village, but there is a further threat. The government wants to build a hydro-electric power station, permanently flooding the area. They are trying to relocate all of the villages some miles into the Amazon, destroying their community and making their fishing livelihoods impossible.

What became clear was that women took a lead role, both in rebuilding the village, regaining services and in resisting the government’s push to remove them permanently from their homes. The OWmne’s association was a powerful force in this community. Not only this, but these women were also looking for new forms of income and we were shown the crafts that they are making to be sold. It was a fantastic experience and illustrated how women are given positions of leadership and control, in ways that men would be expected to take in the UK.

Day seven: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day four

Alex Ratts opened the day by talking about gender, race and space and Black women’s movements in Brazil. She focused on two authors: Beatriz Nascimento who studied Black (Afro-Brazilian) histories which is now part of Brazilian schooling because of her and Leila Gonzale one of the founders of the Unified Black movement, which is a key Black movement in Brazil. She started a collective of Black women inside of this movement.  These authors’ writing, linked with other women and men, and Brazil, focusing on the ways Black women live with racism and sexism. They emphasized the importance of writing of the self as a form of creating resistance and making new knowledges from our own experiences. These authors are becoming more and more importance and are starting to be part of the canon of feminist and black research.

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Day six: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day three

Today was focused on when who experienced multiple forms of exclusion.

Sonia Beatrix Dos Santos explored health issues for Black women and the fight for the right to health in women’s issues in Brazil. The paper showed how Black feminists have been key in developing not health care for impoverished Black women who didn’t have formal jobs.  By fighting for healthcare as part of the constitution, these feminists massively improved the situation for Afro-Brailian women. However, these women are subject to both racism and sexism and there is still a lot to be done. This includes recognising the specifics of afro-Brazilian health needs and empowering Black women in communities to think about health issues. Even with healthcare in the constitution, some 30% of Black women in labour needed to go to more than one hospital to receive maternity care. There are regional differences, and Dos Santos noted that the North-east of Brazil is the worst.

Angela Sacchi’s paper then explored gender in Indigenous communities, explaining that in Brazil’s Indigenous communities, women occupy a range of roles, not only raising children, but also around health and other practices. Nonetheless, men and women have different roles, use space differently and have differential access to public participation. There are a lot of of struggles, and there are differences with women’s movements, that do not recognize their own ethnocentricism.

Xose Manuel Solla focused on empirically examining geographies of sexualities in the Spanish context. Looking at journal articles published in Spain, he argued that the dictatorship in Spain created an important difference between Anglo-geographies and Spanish geographies.  Geography in Spain was very closed and difficult. Exploring over 5,000 journal articles from 19 journals between 1990-2013, there were 9 articles in 23 years on sexualities in geography journals and 6 of these were published between 2007-2012.  Gender fared slightly better with 172 articles- 3.5% of articles published but these are irregular over time and generally averaged around 5 per year. Most of those published were in one specific journal from a progressive Barcelona University,

Day five: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

Here’s my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference day two

A day packed full of exciting papers, some highlights were:

  • The opening paper by Benhur Pinos Da Costa, which explored the history of sexualities internationally, but adding in Brazilian experiences. Finishing with a discussion of small towns in Brazil, Da Costa explored how gay men find space to gather, meet and create relationships and kinship networks even in places that are not accepting of their identities.
  • Jan Simon Hutta’s exploration of how sexualities and gender are policed and controlled in a peripheral area Baixada Fluminense (Fluminense Lowlands), a region in the state of Rio de Janeiro, sought to challenge the idea that safety and security lies in the state and the all Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Trans people will be protected by the police. Instead he argues that the state and police cannot be relied on for some who challenge sexual and gender norms and live in peripheral areas. For those who are more marginal relationships, friendships and gaining respect in local communities are key.
  • Maria Rodo-De-Zarate used maps of feelings to understand the similarities and differences of young lesbians experiences of space in Brazil (a place called Ponte Grosse) and Spain (Barcelona). She showed how these girls do not have the same feelings about space as straight girls, public spaces Spanish girls felt uncomfortable, in Brazil those spoken to could not show their feelings, walk hand in hand in public space, despite legal protections. She argued that not being able to experience love, care and solidarity and deprives people of their humanity. It is necessary to identify these injustices spatially to create more just and fair societies.
  • Cesare Di Feliciantonio discussed the importance of thinking about queer migration and social welfare together.  Too often migrants are presumed to be straight and gay men especially seen to be wealthy and white. Thinking about young gay men who moved from Italy to Berlin and from big cities in Italy to small towns showed that for young people the material conditions in which they exist are really important. For Italian family connections are really important socially, economically and culturally, but they can also be constraining.  Interestingly gay men can experience more freedom in small towns where their families are not present.

Overall the day illustrated the diverse experiences people have of sexualities, and how sexualities are lived differently in differently places, and at different times.

Day four: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

This is my diary of a recent trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Conference opening

IMG_9764 Porto VehloThis was a very different conference opening for a number of reasons. Firstly it started with the national anthem sung by a local choir, who reappeared later to sing other songs from various Brazilian composers.

The opening was done by people from the University, but also the hundred or so people at the conference from all over Latin-America, Portugal and Spain, were welcomed by the Secretary of State, for the State of Rondinia for Education. He spoke of the importance of education for society, University is free in Brazil. More than this he recognized the importance of studying gender and sexuality to address social inclusion and improve society.  Then he went on to say how important geography is to this endeavour, as we need to know how where we are influences exclusions/inclusions and power relations between men and women, as well as around sexuality.

It is refreshing to hear a politician understand the importance of not only education to improve society but also the place of geographies of genders and sexualities to achieve this.  The place of gender and sexuality in geographies in Latin America is very different to that of the UK. The conference organizer talked about gender and sexuality are not recognized as ‘appropriate’ or relevant topics and people struggle to get published in Geography. This seminar offers a chance for people from across Latin America and Iberia to come together, where they are usually isolated into small pockets away from each other. Indeed it is in working together that they were able to start a journal and also to include sexualities for this first time into the title of the conference.

Maria Dolores Garcia Ramon gave the opening talk, speaking about two women travellers Gertude Bell and Isabel Erhenardt. These women traveller had more freedom because they didn’t travel in professional roles, and often challenged colonial rule, but they also helped it. Gertude Bell, for example helped Lawrence of Arabia. I also learned about Porto Velho’s colonial history, which included the British shipping 3 huge water containers to the town, that only served the British half of the town. There is also a British train by the waterfront, also brought by the British during the colonial era. This ‘old town’ area is now popular for evening entertainment both the water towers and the train act as symbols for Port Velho.


Day three: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities

This is my diary of a recent trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.
IMG_9763 Porto Vehlo

Porto Velho

Porto Velho is a small town in the Northern region of Brasil. It borders the Amazon and is very clearly poorer than Brasilia. However, no matter where you go there are always traces of globalization, and in Porto Velho there is an air conditioned shopping centre. As many consumption geographers have discussed, this shopping centre is vey much globalized in the ambience it seeks, in the uniformity of the building, wide aisles, flagship shops at each end and smaller shops between. There is of course a McDonalds in the foodcourt! But look closer and the specificity of Brasil and Porto Velho is also there. None of the shops are recognizably global (except perhaps C&A). The shops instead and the food served are distinctly Brazilian. Acai is the fruit of the region (although found all over Brazil) and is served here.

Day two: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities Seminar

Heres my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.


A day trip out of Brasilia highlighted a very interesting phenomena – motels.These are rented by the hour, but unlike in the UK their use is considered normal for couples.The motels are explicit about their use, with one named Horizontal. Motels are used after a night out or for those in long term relationships, as well as activities that might be frowned upon.This different creation of normal sexual spaces is related to family living where people live in shared family homes with parents in their 20s and 30s, after they are married and so on.These motels then provide a space away from the watchful eyes, for both parents and children.

Day one: Latin American Geography, Gender and Sexualities Seminar

Heres my diary of my trip to Brazil to speak at a conference on geography, gender and sexualities.

Brasilia via Lisbon

IMG_9952 BrasiliaBrasilia is the capital of Brazil, but like Milton Keynes it is a city that was built in the 1960s after it was designated as the capital. The fastest growing city label is easily seen by the immense bumper-to-bumper traffic from the airport and the fast growing suburb of Aguas Claras. Buildings are going up everywhere.Apartment living is the norm, and the apartments all having swimming pools and childrens toys.There is little public space, except a park that is accessible by foot from some parts of the district.This is car culture and most of the buildings have large carparks and promises of car parking spaces are used to sell new apartments.

Family life and the rhythms of everyday life are very different here, children stay up late and go to bars and restaurants (some of which have specific childrens areas) with their parents no babysitters here! School is only in the afternoon – or sometimes in the morning.

There are elections whilst we are here. People vote electronically, by fingerprint and using a series of numbers.There are a number of rules about public advertising of candidates, like they have to clear away all campaign posters by 10 oclock at night to avoid litter.No campaigning is allowed on the day so outside voting stations the floor is covered in flyers left their the night before – showing the ingenuity and persistence and importance of advertising. The election result is inconclusive as the president needs at least 50% of the vote, two candidates are left (including the controversial outgoing president Dilma) and further elections will take place later in the month to decide the winner.