Archive

Author Archives: Sonja Dolinsek

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

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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

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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.

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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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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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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.

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This article analyzes celebrities’ norm entrepreneurship through a specific instance of its enactment: Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore’s media campaign against human trafficking (the K&M Campaign). Drawing from literatures about celebrities and politics and norm entrepreneurship, and using qualitative-interpretive methods of data collection and analysis, I show how the K&M Campaign provides an early, high-profile example of this norm entrepreneurship that demonstrates why and how celebrities communicate norms to the broader public. To illustrate, I show how changing political-economic conditions have facilitated celebrities’ ascendance in the polity, and I argue that Kutcher and Moore have emerged under these conditions to actively oppose human trafficking. Using their considerable resources, they have promoted an “individual responsibility” norm that instructs the public to avoid coercive sexual and labor activities and trafficking situations. I then argue further that the K&M Campaign provides broader lessons about norms’ fluidity: even when they are seemingly incontrovertible and their entrepreneurial proponents (celebrities) have extensive resources, norms may be contradicted and contentious nonetheless. In this case, by promoting an individual responsibility norm, Kutcher and Moore inadvertently conveyed retrograde gender norms and minimized the importance of broader structural solutions to human trafficking.