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SIEF2011 10th Congress: Lisbon, Portugal.
17-21 April 2011

(P311)

Ecologies of sex, trade and illness

Location Tower A, Piso 0, Room 3
Date and Start Time 20 Apr, 2011 at 14:30

Convenors

Cristiana Bastos (University of Lisbon) email
Luis Saraiva (UFPA) email
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Short Abstract

Commercial sex and its brothel-hotel-bar infrastructures create distinct territories that are also sites for health services, knowledge making and creative activism. This panel gathers ethnographies and theories that address the places of sex trade as sites of knowledge and action development.

Long Abstract

Commercial sex and related infrastructures such as brothels, hotels, pensions and bars have often created urban niches, red-light districts, distinct neighbourhoods and roadside territories. Often, these are also the places for STD (sexually transmitted disease) clinics, door-to-door assistance, pharmacies, 'botanicas' and other formal and informal health services. Moreover, these places are sometimes the catalysts for new knowledge and forms of social activism - from biomedical research on STDs and infectious agents to social research and intervention. In this panel we welcome ethnographies and conceptual developments that address one or some of those aspects; we encourage papers to emphasize the interactions of place, action and knowledge.

Discussant: Ilana Low and Sergio Carrara

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

Syphilis and prostitution in the first decades of the 20th century in Lisbon (Portugal) and Belém (Brazil)

Author: Luis Saraiva (UFPA)  email
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Short Abstract

In this article I will analyze the Portuguese and Brazilian compulsory control upon those prostitutes who by the first half of 20th century got syphilis. I’ll also analyze the dynamics of the anti-venereal institutions of the time, as well as the way both police and medicine developed ways of surveillance upon the women’s bodies they thought would have prostitution as working activity.

Long Abstract

In this article I will analyze the Portuguese and Brazilian compulsory control upon those prostitutes who by the first half of 20th century got syphilis. I'll also analyze the dynamics of the anti-venereal institutions of the time, as well as the way both police and medicine developed ways of surveillance upon the women's bodies they thought would have prostitution as working activity.

It is known that these women were compulsory treated in anti-venereal asylums, such as S. Sebastian's Hospital, known as Magdalenas' Asylum, in Belém - Brazil, and also in the Saint Mary Magdalene ward, at Hospital of Desterro, in Lisbon.

These questions are relevant for our understanding of the health dynamics of that period. We will discuss, for instance, what relations can we infer from the specific treatment applied to prostituting women and how, at the time, this kind of medical knowledge has influenced the circulation of certain kinds of ideas and practices about syphilis between Portugal and Brazil. We will also try to discuss how prostitute's syphilis medical treatments differently developed in relation to the ones offered to women who also suffered from the disease but were not prostitutes.

These are fundamental questions for our general understanding of the common representations of syphilis, an important disease for both the representations and politics of public health during the first half of the 20th century.

Health, sexuality and urban spaces: the control of syphilis in two Brazilian port cities

Author: Sergio Carrara (University of the State of Rio de Janeiro - UERJ)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will address the experiences of public health intervention and control of prostitution developed in Brazil between the end of the 19th century and 1940, as part of anti-venereal state policies. Drawing from the cases of Rio de Janeiro and Belem (Pará), I will analyze the development of an original model of intervention ­ neither based on prohibition, as in the US, not on regularization of prostitution, as in France,­ and discuss its impact on urban spaces.

Long Abstract

This paper will address the experiences of public health intervention and control of prostitution developed in Brazil between the end of the 19th century and 1940, as part of anti-venereal state policies. Drawing from the cases of Rio de Janeiro and Belem (Pará), I will analyze the development of an original model of intervention neither based on prohibition, as in the US, not on regularization of prostitution, as in France,­ and discuss its impact on urban spaces.

Scars, sex, and salvarsan: the ethnohistory of a syphilis clinic

Author: Cristiana Bastos (University of Lisbon)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper will address the confluence of scarred skins, wax models, sex workers, medical knowledge and syphilis treatments in the early 20th century hospital wards of Desterro, uphill from the brothels and street hustling neighborhoods Mouraria- Intendente in downtown Lisbon. Through the material evidence of 3-D models, clinical logbooks and physicians’ notes and diaries, I will analyze the articulation between state-of the-art medical knowledge, local clinical practices at the lived experience of syphilis for the sex-workers and other in- and outpatients of the hospital.

Long Abstract

This paper will address the confluence of scarred skins, wax models, sex workers, medical knowledge and syphilis treatments in the early 20th century hospital wards of Desterro, uphill from the brothels and street hustling neighborhoods Mouraria- Intendente in downtown Lisbon. While the clinic treated some of the most stigmatized diseases and patients,frequently with visible skin lesions,and often the social outcasts, and while the means were scarce and sometimes close to indigence, the techniques available were up-to-date with the most recent developments in international science. Through the material evidence of 3-D models, clinical logbooks and physicians' notes and diaries, I will analyze the articulation between state-of the-art medical knowledge, local clinical practices at the lived experience of syphilis for the sex-workers and other in- and outpatients of the hospital.

New institutions, new women, new sexuality: medicalizing and ethnicizing the woman's body in the interwar period

Author: Zsuzsa Bokor (Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities)  email
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Short Abstract

In my paper I analyze local strategies regarding medicalization and ethnicization of the (prostitute) women’s body in the 1920s and 1930s in a Transylvanian city, Cluj. My main question is: how did medical authority see the “prostitute problem” and nationalize it, in this “transitional” situation?

Long Abstract

In my paper I will analyze local strategies regarding medicalization and ethnicization of the women's body in the very sensible transitional period of the 1920s and 1930s in Cluj, a Transylvanian city. Focusing on medical drifts that intended to construct a whole range of institutions around the "prostitution's problem", I will try to answer the question: how did medical authority and its public pressure see this problem, how did they want to change local sexual norms and "nationalize" them, and how could this authority manage this "transitional" situation? How can this interference be measured (if it can be altogether) besides the increasing number of treated prostitutes and horrible number of other clinically supervised and treated patients?

It was not accidental that medical records became main sources for shaping prostitution as changes within sexuality were truly connected with the development of the Romanian medicine sector in the Transylvanian society. The newly created hospitals and medical institutions like the Woman's Hospital, the Ambulatory for venereal diseases, the Department of Biopolitics at the Medical University, the periodicals as "Buletin eugenic şi biopolitic", "Clujul medical", "Sănătatea publică" etc. represented not only the powerful symbol of the medical authority in its Foucaultian meaning but new discourses about nation, integrity and public health, too.

Migrant sex workers and health: reflections on intervention and discourses about health care

Authors: Alexandra Oliveira (University of Porto)  email
Marta Maia (CRIA)  email
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Short Abstract

This paper analyses the intervention carried out in the context of indoor prostitution and the discourses of female migrant sex workers about the health care sector. The data shows obstacles that oppose to sex workers' access to the health care system and the discriminatory practices towards them.

Long Abstract

First author: Alexandra OLIVEIRA, U Porto; second author: Marta MAIA, CRIA

Female sex workers are particularly vulnerable to HIV/Aids and other STI, both because they have multiple partners and because, within commercial sex, they are somewhat pressured to have unprotected sexual relations.

At the present, there is a large proportion of migrants in prostitution, in Europe, and their immigrant status represents a second situation of vulnerability. Furthermore, the lack of social and familiar ties of some of these sex workers facilitates the emergence of interpersonal problems and psychological discomfort. All these factors can cause a low well-being and potentiate high-risk health behaviours.

The migrant' illegal situation, aggravated by the informal nature of sex work and the stigmatization, become real obstacles in accessing health care.

In this paper, based on the experience of out reach work with this population, we reflect on the intervention carried out in the context of apartment prostitution and the way this practices can stimulate new knowledge. Based on interviews with migrant women in the context of indoor prostitution, specifically those located in apartments, we also focused on their discourses in what concerns to the way institutional practices, of formal and informal health services, affect their well-being and health.

The outcomes identify the role of the intervention projects and the obstacles opposing the access to the health care system and to HIV/Aids and STI prevention, the contexts in which such obstacles emerge and the discriminatory practices towards migrant female sex workers, all contributing to potentiate stigma and affect their well-being.

Sex and trade in gay party circuits

Author: Laurent Gaissad (Université de Paris Ouest Nanterre)  email
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Short Abstract

Observing interactions between body, desire, drugs in a transnational gay circuit party space marked by intensive sexual multi-partnership and substance use, we focus on local knowledge / agency to outline pharmaceutical and deal expertise, challenging current medicalized sociology of homosexuality.

Long Abstract

Grounding on an ongoing ethnography at La Démence (a monthly gay party in Brussels), this paper examines interactions between body, desire and drugs in a transnational (interurban) recreational circuit space marked by intensive sexual multi-partnership and drug use. It shows that they do not merely produce isolated "alternative" subjects, characterized by risk, addiction or mental distress, but tend to create alternative inter-subjective relations in which sex trade is interwoven with multiple transactions and different degrees of utility around substances, bodies, sex, money, health, information, sociability, networks.

Focusing on local knowledge, competence and agency over such transactions also highlights discrepancies with current behavioral trends in scientific literature or in coincident socio-medical debates. The dynamics of gay circuit parties (Brussels, Paris, London, Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Barcelona), somewhat relying on a pharmaceutical and deal expertise to maximize sexual experiences, can therefore be described to challenge the current medicalized sociology of homosexuality.

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This panel is closed to new paper proposals.