Victim framing in public discourse on sex trafficking does make a difference, and the reasons these frames elicit different responses are complex and moderated by respondents’ exposure to information and knowledge about the issue.
Paradoxically, in the 19th century, an era very concerned with public virtue, prostitutes were increasing being represented in Western European cultural expressions. Prostitution was a prevalent social phenomenon due to the rapid urbanization of Western Europe. People were on the move as both urban and rural areas underwent considerable material and normative change; the majority of Western European cities grew rapidly and were marked by harsh working and living conditions, as well as unemployment and poverty. A seeming rise in prostitution was one of the results of these developments, but its centrality in culture cannot be explained by this fact alone. Prostitution also came to epitomize broader social ills associated with industrialization and urbanization: “the prostitute” became the discursive embodiment of the discontent of modernity.
The surge in cultural representation of prostitutes may also be seen as an expression of changing norms and a driver for change in the public perception of prostitution. In particular, artists came to employ the prostitute as a motif, revealing contemporary hypocrisy about gender and class.
In recent years, many European countries, including Italy, have witnessed an increasing penalisation of uncivil (anti-social or nuisance) behaviour at the local level (Peršak, 2017b; Selmini and Crawford, 2017). In England and Wales, Belgium and Italy, this has been the result of the enactment at the national level of vague legislative provisions, which have entrusted local authorities with enhanced powers in the area of urban safety and security (Di Ronco and Peršak, 2014). Local authorities have used their increased public order powers to target a wide range of behaviour, which they considered to be “anti-social”, a “nuisance” or a “threat” to public safety and urban security (Di Ronco and Peršak, 2014). This behaviour also included the nuisance caused by street prostitution. Punitive measures against street prostitutes and their clients have been taken at the local level, for example, in England and Wales, where Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) were issued against street sex workers and clients until 2014 (see Sagar, 2007, 2010; Scoular and O’Neill, 2007). In addition, administrative sanctions have been imposed in Spain (Villacampa, 2017), as well as in Belgium and Italy (Di Ronco, 2014).
Qualitative research grounded in a social constructionist epistemology troubles the assumption, integral in positivist research, that a researcher can be neutral and apolitical. In fact, many scholars are drawn to constructionist epistemologies because they situate the research process as a site of ontological resistance and social change. This essay explores the politics of voice and representation in anti-oppressive qualitative research. Using an example from one author’s research on stigma management among formerly incarcerated women, and the particularly pernicious stigma women faced if they had engaged in sex work, we detail the benefits and pitfalls of either re-presenting research participants in their exact words or changing participants’ words, a process we refer to as re-languaging. Drawing upon philosophical and social scientific scholarship on the “crisis of representation” in qualitative research and recent scholarship and news articles about human sex trafficking, we underscore the powerful political effects of language. We argue that researchers’ choices about language are neither inherently liberatory nor oppressive, but they are always political. We call for a more reflexive scholarly dialog on voice in qualitative social work research and press scholars to explicitly engage the question of whom and what we represent when we claim to represent marginalized others.
Kramm, R. “Haunted by Defeat: Imperial Sexualities, Prostitution, and the Emergence of Postwar Japan.” Journal of World History, vol. 28 no. 3, 2017, pp. 587-614. doi:10.1353/jwh.2017.0043
This article addresses sexuality and prostitution as key elements in the emergence of postwar Japanese nationalism. It analyzes discursive practices, which Japan’s authorities used to conceptualize the recreational facilities aimed at “comforting” the Allied occupiers during the still imaginary encounter of occupier and occupied in the immediate post-surrender period. The conceptualization of prostitution at the end of WWII is a pivotal example for the clash of competing empires, the disintegration of Japan’s empire, and postwar imagination of the Japanese nation-state. Since the early twentieth century Japan’s aggressive war and colonial rule in Asia exported sex workers as well as specific notions of sexuality—often mediated through further global entanglements with the West and its colonies—that had shaped the understanding of Japan’s empire and Japanese imperial subjectivity. With defeat in 1945, Japan’s imperial dreams shattered, but imperial experiences of sexuality and prostitution continued to shape ideas of Japanese belonging.