‘If you give me time I can love you’: A Pregnant Researcher among Male Beach Workers on Kenya’s Liminal South Coast Beaches
Keywords:tourist-related livelihoods, beach workers, emotions in research, liminality, reflexivity
In this paper I discuss how while carrying out research among male beach workers in Kenya’s touristic South Coast region – in relation to their quest for livelihoods through sexual-economic relationships with visiting white women – I became a participant in the phenomenon I set out to study. The article’s contribution is twofold. First, I draw on my interactions with some of the men I met on-site, and in particular my encounter with ‘Weston’ – a migrant beach worker, his unexpected behaviour towards me as a pregnant emigrant Kenyan researcher, and the ambiguity and awkwardness of our exchange, to tease out and offer insights into the behaviour, practices, and gender ideologies held by male beach workers within the South Coast beaches that I qualify as liminal. Second, I bring out the emotional discomforts I faced in my interactions with some of the men with regard to flirtation; requests to assume a matchmaker role between them and western women in Europe, as well as the help offered by men whose interests I suspected were motivated by beach worker rivalry, or their wish to establish sexual-economic relationships with me. In doing so, I highlight the usefulness of engaging in reflexive analyses of one’s fieldwork experiences, interactions, and emotions for the generation of knowledge related to one’s research and research environment.