Cosmopolitan Sex Workers: Women and Migration in a Global City (Book)

Christine B.N. Chin (2013): Cosmopolitan Sex Workers: Women and Migration in a Global City, Oxford University Press.

This book introduces an innovative ‘3C’ framework of city, creativity, and cosmopolitanism to analyze why and how the forces of neoliberal economic restructuring processes, and people’s responses to them, encourage women’s migration for sex work from global city to global city. Based on original fieldwork in Kuala Lumpur (KL), the study begins by examining KL’s transformation into a global city. Despite the state’s creatively repressive responses to ‘illegal foreign prostitutes’, women from within and beyond the region find ways to enter for sex work. They travel on migratory pathways created from inter-global city collaboration and competition. Women’s decisions to migrate for sex work are based on and shaped by socioeconomic strategies crafted in the larger context of intersecting forces from the personal and household to the global levels. They migrate independently, with assistance from friends or from syndicates. This book offers an unprecedented examination of one KL syndicate specializing in non-trafficked migrant women. ‘Syndicate X’ arranges migrant women’s transportation, housing, security and sex work in exchange for monthly board and lodging fees and ‘taxes’ on their incomes. Analysis of migrant women’s and syndicate personnel’s encounters with difference in the global city at once evince emerging cosmopolitan subjectivities and affirm colonial-like ascriptions and ensuing worldviews and treatments of the Other. In the three dimensions of city, creativity, and cosmopolitanism, we find the common denominator of classed, gendered, and racialised-ethnicised forces that shape, and are shaped by relationships between state policies, public discourse, migrant women and syndicate personnel.

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