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Feminist Review. Heidi Hoefinger, Routledge, Abingdon, , pp. They are the absolute protagonists of this fascinating intimate ethnography of their everyday lives, which unfolds between the contradictory constraints posed by the conservative gender hierarchies at work in Cambodia and the opportunities for social advancement emerging from the anarchic globalisation of the country.
The Party Bar girls have a hard life, but they are not victims of the difficult situation they navigate. They exchange different kinds and degrees of intimacy for their own material benefit through transactional relationships with Western men. The author explores the everyday lives, values and beliefs of professional girlfriends through an exemplary mix of methodological approaches, including long-term intimate ethnography, surveys, filmmaking and participatory action research.
Guided by the best examples of self-reflexive ethnography, Hoefinger writes about her multiple roles of friend, researcher and fellow traveller, as well as about the way these roles unfolded within the professional girlfriend scene throughout many years of fieldwork.
Hoefinger does not look away from the more sinister aspects of the Cambodian sexual landscape within which professional girlfriends articulate their lifestyles and the associated subjectivities and social trajectories. She reviews and assesses existing research evidence on the prevalence of father—daughter incest, the sexual exploitation of children, the selling of underage virginity, debt bondage, gang rape and human trafficking within contemporary Cambodian society. Quite the opposite.
The recognition of the influence of some of these factors in the lives of many professional girlfriends allows the author to fully apprehend, explore and describe the forms of agency they negotiate by engaging in transactional intimate opportunities to build a better life for themselves and their families.