Migrant sex workers are commonly cast as victims, moved by desperation to flee poverty and hopelessness in their home country. The Brazilian erotic dancers Suzana Maia presents in Transnational Desires, however, are women from the Brazilian middle classsome of them welleducated professionalswho migrated to the United States not just to better themselves economically but also to realize their personal dreams.
Their motivation to migrate and to work as erotic dancers can also be understood in the context of a representational system, inaugurated in colonial times, that emphasizes the exoticism of Brazilian womentheir bodies, their skin tone, their sexuality. These stereotypes are the props that Brazilian women use to construct their performances in Manhattan and Queens gentlemen's bars and the language through which they negotiate their relationships to society at large.
Transnational Desires focuses on the lives of nine Brazilian dancers with whom the author, herself a middleclass Brazilian, developed close relationships over the years. Maia examines their social relations both in the bar scene and with family, friends, and lovers outside. She shows that for these women erotic dancing is part of a life trajectory that involves negotiating their social position and life prospects in a fundamentally transnational social universe.