Archive

Ethnography

Anthony Marcus & Robert Riggs & Amber Horning & Sarah Rivera & Ric Curtis & Efram Thompson. “Is Child to Adult as Victim is to Criminal? Social Policy and Street-Based Sex Work in the USA” Sex Res Soc Policy (2012) 9:153–166DOI 10.1007/s13178-011-0070-1

Longstanding policy debates over how prostitution/sex work should be thought about and responded to have been upended in the USA by a growing tendency to conflate the practice with sex trafficking. US law and social policy have converged most fully on this issue in a movement to eradicate what has come to be known as the commercial sexual exploitation of children. One outcome of this movement has been an expanded focus on prosecuting and imprisoning pimps and other legal adults who support or abet juridical minors involved in the sex trade. This paper will show that the simplistic, one-size-fits-all narrative of the child victim and the adult exploiter inherent in this policy does not reflect the realities of street-based sex work in the USA. After 2 years of ethnographic and social network research in two cities, we find that sex market-involved young people participate in a great diversity of market–facilitation relationships, many of which provide the only or the most crucial foundation for their support networks. A social policy based on a one-dimensional construction of the child victim and the adult exploiter not only endangers these crucial relationships but also disappears the real needs of young people involved in the exchange of sex for money.

Full text available here.

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Biradavolu, Monica Rao and Burris, Scott and George, Annie and Jena, Asima and Blankenship, Kim, Can Sex Workers Regulate Police? Learning from an HIV Prevention Project for Sex Workers in Southern India (February 15, 2010). Social Science & Medicine, Vol. 68, No. 8, pp. 1541-1547, 2009; Temple University Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2010-04.

There is evidence that policing practices exacerbate HIV risk, particularly for female sex workers. Interventions in India that mobilize sex workers to seek changes in laws and law enforcement practices have received considerable scholarly attention. Yet, there are few studies on the strategies sex worker advocates use to modify police behavior or the struggles they face in challenging state institutions. This paper draws upon contemporary theories of governance and non-state regulation to analyze the evolving strategies of an HIV prevention non-governmental organization (NGO) and female sex worker community-based organizations (CBOs) to reform police practices in a southern Indian city. Using detailed ethnographic observations of NGO and CBO activities over a two year period, and key informant interviews with various actors in the sex trade, this paper shows how a powerless group of marginalized and stigmatized women were able to leverage the combined forces of community empowerment, collective action and network-based governance to regulate a powerful state actor, and considers the impact of the advocacy strategies on sex worker well-being.

Full text available here.

Kimberly Kay Hoang, “Competing Technologies of Embodiment: Pan-Asian Modernity and Third World Dependency in Vietnam’s Contemporary Sex Industry”. Gender & Society, Vol 28, Issue 4, pp. 513-536 (2014).

This article illustrates how the circulation of capital and culture in Asia produces divergent embodied gendered ideals of national belonging through the case of Vietnam’s global sex industry. Introducing the concept of competing technologies of embodiment, I show how sex workers’ surgical and cosmetic bodily projects represent different perceptions of an emerging nation’s divergent trajectories in the global economy. In a high-end niche market that caters to local elite Vietnamese businessmen, sex workers project a new pan-Asian modernity highlighting emergent Asian ideals of beauty in a project of progress that signals the rise of Asia. Women who cater to Western men, in contrast, embody Third World dependency, portraying Vietnam as a poverty-stricken country in need of Western charity. By comparing multiple markets, I illustrate how individual agents in the developing world actively reimagine their nation’s place in the global economy through their embodied practices.

Full article available here.

Abstract
Most studies of media focus on production, representation, or audience. Using rhetorical analysis and ethnographic field methods, my article offers one way to study media production contexts, representations, and audience interactions in relation to one another. For this project, I conducted a narrative rhetorical analysis of the reality docu-series Cathouse that takes place in a legal brothel in Nevada, the Moonlite Bunny Ranch. In addition, I visited the brothel and used ethnographic field methods of participant observation and interviewing to investigate the lived experiences of the women working at the Ranch. My analysis revealed a web of intertextual discourses of prostitution that I could not have accessed had I not used these methods in conjunction with one another. By bringing perspectives from rhetorical inquiry, cultural and media studies, and ethnography into conversation with one another, I provide a framework for analyzing production, representation, and audience for the Cathouse series, while attending to both the content of the women’s stories and how these participants rhetorically constructed and performed their identities. Finally, my analysis offers insights into ethnographic and textual “crises of representation” in relation to the concept of “rhetorical authenticity” in media representations, the relationships between audience members, production, and representation in reality television, and material impacts for the women who work at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch that I could not have accessed without using these methods together.

Edward Snajdr, “Beneath the master narrative: human trafficking, myths of sexual slavery and ethnographic realities” (2013) 37 Dialectical Anthropology 229

Abstract:

This paper explores the disconnections between anti-trafficking discourse and the local experience of responding to human trafficking as indicated in ethnographic data from Bosnia and Kazakhstan. Using the concept of “uptake,” I examine how anti-trafficking discourse operates as a master narrative, drawing on techniques of emotion and logic, as well as a specific type of victim story. I also consider how, despite an emerging counter discourse that questions the data and challenges current policy, human trafficking discourse continues to be retold in media and reproduced in popular culture, often in ways that actually diverge from the current version of the grand narrative. In contrast to these uncritical representations, ethnographic data from Bosnia suggest that the master narrative is selective in how it represents the history of the problem and that it does not “take up” important details about the context that fosters sexual exploitation, despite Bosnia’s compliance with US policy. Conversely, Kazakhstan suffers a liminal status regardless of local efforts to prevent the problem from happening within its borders as well as evidence that the crime is not widespread. While perhaps not mythical, I suggest that the master narrative contains the stuff of legend as it occupies the critical spaces of policy, activism and development, leaving open the question of how to address the nuances and needs of responding to victims of gender violence.

Full text available here.

INDOORS Project (Veronica Munk, ed.), “Pictures of a Reality: Sex workers talk about their life and work experiences within the indoor sex work setting in nine European cities”. Autres Regards, Marseille, October 2012.

“The aim of this book is to dismantle the idea that sex work is a uniform universe where sex workers are part of one and the same group.

This exhibition presents sex workers in their entire complex human dimension, which is composed of all sorts of opinions on the same subject, of joy and fear over their work, of happiness and doubts regarding their lives.

These are, then, the main objectives of Pictures of a Reality: to show the diversity within the sex work context, the multiplicity of its population, but also to dismantle the idea of victimisation of sex workers, demonstrating that not all sex workers were deceived or threatened, but that the world of prostitution is composed of people of all genders who are conscious of their choice. Even if it is not the best choice for some of them, it is a concrete labour alternative at a given moment in their lives.

The idea behind this book is to show that sex work is a reality, part of society, of any society, independently of whether or not that society recognises it as a matter of fact. This recognition process depends on the level of the moral and/or political discussion taking place in a given society, regarding not only sex work itself, but also topics such as migration and the labour market.

Pictures of a Reality was developed as an instrument against stigma, discrimination and clichés, as a tool to break taboos regarding sex work, sex workers, and the indoor prostitution setting in Europe. This was achieved because, for a change, sex workers were the ones talking about themselves and their environment, without ‘taboos’ or distortion. They were the ones to show us the reality: their reality.

Reality has, however, multiple faces, as individuals will have different perceptions of any given situation. Therefore, to show a wider dimension of this reality, to contrast these perceptions, the book also presents the opinion of ‘other’ professionals, persons who are directly or indirectly involved with sex workers.

Sex workers’ declarations are there to reduce and deconstruct myths about them, by painting a picture of what they really are. However, through all the differences, one aspect is common to all sex workers in all nine European cities: their demand for rights and respect.”

Full text available here.

Anuja Agrawal, “Kinship and trafficking: The case of the Bedia community” (2003) Canadian Woman Studies, Vol 22 Nos 3-4, p.131

Introduction (our translation): “This article discusses the link between sex work and prostitution in India. While one is assured that prostitutes are sold without the consent of their families, the case of the Bedia community shows how the economy of these families is linked to the sex trade. The author hopes that trafficking of women for prostitution is reexamined in light of the role played by families and kinship.”

Full text (in English) available here.