Gregory Swedberg; Moralizing Public Space: Prostitution, Disease, and Social Disorder in Orizaba, Mexico, 1910–1945, Journal of Social History, 2017https://doi.org/10.1093/jsh/shx083

Abstract

This article explores how women working as prostitutes in Orizaba, Mexico, laid claim to a more revolutionary vision of women’s citizenship. Prostitutes pushed the state to realize the promises of the Mexican Revolution, even as officials and many local residents—rich and poor—retained outmoded notions of gender and citizenship. This research indicates that “respectable” poor and working-class individuals gravitated toward traditional gender values so as to position themselves as respectable in the eyes of state agents charged with policing morality and public health. State officials’ rhetoric of egalitarianism that followed the Mexican Revolution fell flat for the public women whose pecuniary position persisted long after the guns fell silent.

Stefano Petrungaro; The Medical Debate about Prostitution and Venereal Diseases in Yugoslavia (1918–1941), Social History of Medicine, 2017https://doi.org/10.1093/shm/hkx023

Abstract

The article aims at illustrating the main features of the medical debate about prostitution and venereal diseases in the first Yugoslavia, and the role played by physicians in shaping prostitution policies in that country between the two world wars. The Yugoslav medical debate, while sharing many of the same arguments and characteristics with analogues debates in Europe and beyond, also reveals some peculiar aspects. These aspects were related to the Habsburg and Ottoman legacies, the phenomenon of Bosnian endemic syphilis, the establishment of the new Yugoslav state, and the South-East European context. This resulted firstly in a multifaceted debate, with internal discrepancies and a dynamic development during the time; secondly, in a relevant role played by physicians as policy consultants and even policy makers with marked eugenic tones, which were in full accordance with the social engineering and nation-building projects of the political elite of this newly founded state.

Nicola J. Smith, “The international political economy of commercial sex” Review of International Political Economy (2011) 18:4, 530-549

The expansion of the global sex industry in recent years has emerged as an important national and international policy concern and has also become the subject of considerable academic interest. Spanning a variety of social science disciplines such as sociology, cultural studies, economics, anthropology and geography, there is now a rich and diverse literature on the political economy of prostitution, pornography and sex trafficking. This scholarship has not only contributed a wealth of empirical data on the scope and nature of the global sex trade but has also generated profound theoretical insights into the structure of power relations on an international scale. As authors such as Andreas, Bhattacharyya and Ryner have argued, the illicit and illegal economy is intimately related to, not separable from, the functioning of the ‘formal’ global economy and yet unprotected workers remain both politically marginalized and economically vulnerable. For Federici, the sex industry – one of the key non-legal forms of revenue aside from the drugs and arms trades – is a ‘paradigmatic case’ for understanding both how the international political economy impacts upon unprotected workers and how their status and interests are represented in contemporary political debates.

It is perhaps surprising, then, that within the field of International Political Economy little attention has been devoted to commercial sex – as a number of feminist scholars have noted. In part, this reflects a continued preoccupation in mainstream IPE with the ‘upper circuits’ of capital relations (trade, financial markets, capital flows) rather than the ‘lower circuits’ (domestic labour, janitorial/custodial work, tourism and sex work). More fundamentally, feminist scholars have pointed to a tendency to discursively position certain types of work on the ‘outside’ rather than the ‘inside’ of globalisation and capitalism – and hence beyond the ‘proper’ analysis of IPE. In particular, as Gillian Youngs notes, mainstream IPE has tended to be underpinned by a number of binaries and oppositions such as state/market, domestic/international, institutional/individual and public/private. Crucially, this has enabled certain forms of labour to, in effect, be written out of the analysis of IPE – including commercial sex, which has been marginalized due to its association with the ‘private’ sphere of sexuality rather than the ‘public’ sphere of work. Feminist scholars have thus called for IPE to focus more on the ‘reproductive economy’ (i.e. the feminised and private realm of emotional, leisure, caring and sexual labour) as opposed to the ‘productive economy’ (i.e. those forms of work associated with primary, secondary and tertiary production). Within this context, the sex industry has emerged as an important case study in a feminist project not only to render women’s lives more visible in IPE but also to re-map the conceptual and empirical terrain of IPE itself.

In this essay I offer a review of recent literature on commercial sex, focusing my discussion on four key books that each place commercial sex centre-stage within the broader analysis of global power relations. While not all situate themselves within (or, indeed, engage explicitly with) IPE as a discipline, each is nevertheless directly concerned with the extent to and ways in which the sex industry reflects and exacerbates the structural hierarchies of global capitalism. However, as I shall outline, the four books nevertheless come from rather different theoretical and normative starting-points and thus offer a variety of competing interpretations of the meanings(s) and practice(s) of commercial sex within a global context. In particular, there is significant debate as to whether the global sexual economy can ever represent a site of resistance to power relations or whether, alternatively, it is where global inequalities are felt most acutely.

Full text of author’s original manuscript available here.

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Abstract
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There is a notable shift toward more repression and criminalization in sex work policies, in Europe and elsewhere. So-called neo-abolitionism reduces sex work to trafficking, with increased policing and persecution as a result. Punitive “demand reduction” strategies are progressively more popular. These developments call for a review of what we know about the effects of punishing and repressive regimes vis-à-vis sex work. From the evidence presented, sex work repression and criminalization are branded as “waterbed politics” that push and shove sex workers around with an overload of controls and regulations that in the end only make things worse. It is illustrated how criminalization and repression make it less likely that commercial sex is worker-controlled, non-abusive, and non-exploitative. Criminalization is seriously at odds with human rights and public health principles. It is concluded that sex work criminalization is barking up the wrong tree because it is fighting sex instead of crime and it is not offering any solution for the structural conditions that sex work (its ugly sides included) is rooted in. Sex work repression travels a dead-end street and holds no promises whatsoever for a better future. To fight poverty and gendered inequalities, the criminal justice system simply is not the right instrument. The reasons for the persistent stigma on sex work as well as for its present revival are considered.

Aminda M. Smith, ‘The Dilemma of Thought Reform: Beijing Reformatories and the Origins of Reeducation through Labor, 1949–1957’, Modern China 39(2) (2013): 203–234. 
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Abstract
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This article explores the efforts of the early People’s Republic of China (PRC) to intern and reform beggars, prostitutes, and other socially marginalized individuals as important precursors to the post-1957 system of Reeducation through Labor. It links a case study of local practice in Beijing to central government discussions about policy formulation to trace a series of co-constituted changes in the practical methods associated with thought reform as well as in the way PRC reeducators perceived the nature of their targets. It argues that Reeducation through Labor, as moniker and practice, was forged through the many contradictions between real idealism and practical reality that were discussed, debated, but never entirely resolved by the earliest PRC reeducators.

The military camptown in South Korea is a legacy of colonialism and a symbol of national insecurity in Korean history. From September 1945, when US troops arrived on the Korean peninsula for a transfer of power from the Japanese colonial empire, until the present day, the presence of American soldiers and military bases has been a familiar feature of Korean society. The purpose of this article is to trace the history of the US military camptown in Korea, adding the intersection of hidden stories of women’s experiences. Based on an analysis of life stories of 14 former prostitutes and other primary and secondary sources, this article explores the ways in which the Korean government cooperated with US (military) interests in the systematic construction and maintenance of a system of camptown prostitution in the period from 1950 to 1980, with changes in policy from tacit permission to permissive promotion and then active support. During this process, women in camptowns experienced absurd, unjust and contradictory sociopolitical changes relating to international relations and national policies, as well as community attitudes toward and treatment of them in their vulnerable state. However, these women were neither absolute sexual objects nor helpless victims. Women in camptowns managed to carve out spaces for themselves and change their material conditions, cultural identities, and even their legal status, demonstrating their struggle for survival. In this way, women in camptowns represent a symbol of transgression against both androcentric Korean society and ethnocentric nationalism.

Camila Pastor De Maria Campos. “Performers or Prostitutes?: Artistes during the French Mandate over Syria and Lebanon, 1921–1946”. Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, Volume 13, Number 2, July 2017, pp. 287-311.
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Abstract
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Analyzing memoirs from the Arab diaspora and Mashriq, colonial archives, interviews, League of Nations reports, and mandate legal literature, this article tracks the circulation and regulation of mobile women engaging in performance and sex work in French Mandate Syria and Lebanon (1921–46). The French metropolitan system of regulated prostitution was imported yet transformed in the mandate region as women performers were sorted into legitimate, if morally suspect, foreign artistes and autochthonous performers defined as prostitutes by decrees and codes. Regional and transnational mobility and the institutionalization of borders by colonial administrations destabilized their own distinctions between foreign and autochthonous, however. Women used these contradictions, overlapping legal frameworks, and artistry to continue to work and limit the extraction of their resources by a variety of institutional actors who nevertheless expected sexual and entertainment services to be afforded to foreign and local men.