“Magic body” and “cursed sex”: Chinese sex workers as “bitch-witches” in Cameroon

Abstract

The expansion of Chinese activities in Africa has been accompanied by a growing number of young Chinese women migrants engaged in prostitution, transforming the red-light districts of some African cities from markets almost entirely monopolized by local sex workers into highly competitive Chinese commercial sexualized sites. In Cameroon, disgruntled local sex workers now point to a ‘Chinese sexual invasion’ and blame young Chinese women for the decline in their business. This article explores some of the remarkable tactics devised by local sex workers in Douala to deal with the ‘unfair competition’ represented by Chinese sex workers. These tactics include the production of extremist discourses that construe Chinese sex workers as economic predators, and characterize them as dangerous putes sorcières (bitch-witches). The article concludes that the pervasive idiom of occultism, embodied by the concepts of “magic body” and “cursed sex” that permeate much of the popular imagination of Chinese sex labourers in Cameroon, reflects a broader disenchantment with recent China–Africa cooperation, which is increasingly perceived as an attempt by China to control Africa’s immense natural resources under the guise of mutually beneficial relations.

Article available for free here.

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