The Political Economy of Sex Work in Europe

PhD Thesis

Garofalo, Giulia 2009. The Political Economy of Sex Work in Europe. PhD Thesis University of East London School of Law and Social Sciences
AuthorsGarofalo, Giulia
TypePhD Thesis

My PhD thesis entitled The Political Economy of Sex Work in Europe' aims at reformulating the most politically relevant aspects of sex work in contemporary Europe in terms of state policy interventions and of main conflicts between groups engaging on the politics of sex work, through a systematic use of materialist tools, in particular French
Materialist Feminism (Leonard, Adkins (eds.), 1996).

The first step of this theoretical enterprise is the recognition of the uniquely interesting position, both political and epistemological, held by the sex workers' movement in the context of a general sex work regime emerging across different countries: the 'anti-trafficking' regime.
Beyond the clear position that 'sex work is work', and its claims for legalisation, this movement offers a variety of original reflections on the specificities of sex work, both in terms of its labour content and its political content. In particular, sex work activists appear to argue that sex work is both sex and work; that, as with the rest of sex, it is first of all a practice of human interaction; and that, centrally, it carries a unique stigma which may correspond to a unique potential resistance.

Elaborating on this marginalised knowledge, my contribution furthers an understanding of the specificity of the production of sex - whether it takes place in a work context or not - as a 'focused interaction' (Goffman, 1963) that constitutes a kind of 'factory of the selves' employing 'relational labour'. It also defines the concrete social division relevant to sex work in contemporary Europe, which is one of gender, but also of sexual identity and ethnicity - in other words, of those who are defined as 'abnormals' versus the 'normals'. The thesis overall
suggests that, when given theoretical breath, the struggles of sex workers may indicate that a 'class' analysis is necessary to understand the specific relational exploitation that women, LGBT, and ethnicised people are subjected to as abnormals, far beyond the sphere of sex

KeywordsSex work in contemporary Europe; Sex workers' movement; International Committee on the Rights of Sex Workers in Europe
Publication dates
PrintNov 2009
Publication process dates
Deposited28 Oct 2013
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