Hello anthropology enthusiasts! Our next webinar, with Larissa Sandy, will be the last scheduled before we take a break for the summer. In it we’ll be exploring the struggles and livelihood of sex work in Cambodia. Before we get into Larissa’s incredible work, I’d like to take a moment to thank you all for an amazing first year of webinars. What started out as a side project– and a chance for me to talk with some of my anthropology heroes– has evolved into a vibrant experience, and it always makes me smile to see folks tuning in to our twice a month journey into anthropology. Life can be hectic, and I appreciate that you all chose to spend your time with us. We have a great schedule for the fall leading up to the Annual Meeting in Denver this year, but for now let’s dive into Larissa’s webinar:
It is very difficult for many people to understand sex work in Cambodia in terms other than trafficking, and so this webinar attempts to challenge and transform conventional thought and theory about sex work in non-Western modern settings like Cambodia.
In the webinar, I explore women’s pathways into sex work and highlight how this often begins with a series of constraints and choices that cannot be disconnected and which renders their identification as victims of trafficking or free agents highly problematic. The webinar shifts the focus of debate from very simplistic dichotomies by concentrating on descriptions of women’s lives rather than beginning with a priori assumptions (e.g. sex workers as victims enslaved in prostitution). I consider some of the difficulties surrounding the intersection of structural factors with subjective choices in sex workers’ everyday lives and analyse how Cambodia’s transitional economy and development plans shape sex working women’s trajectories into and experiences of sex work, and debt bondage in particular.
By exploring sex work through an anthropological lens, the webinar examines women’s involvement in the sector as part of the moral and political economies of sex work. It also discusses how sex work can be understood as a rational economic choice and a vehicle through which important social and cultural obligations fulfilled as well as reflecting on the pressing need to critically re-think the trafficking/sex slavery label.
Bio: Larissa Sandy is an anthropologist at RMIT University, Melbourne (Australia) where she lectures in the Criminology program. Her research examines sex work and women’s agency; contract labour, debt bondage and other forms of unfree labour in sex work; sex worker activism; and the global politics of sex work regulation. Before joining RMIT University, Larissa was a Vice Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow in Criminology at Flinders University, where her research explored the effects of human trafficking laws and interventions for male and female sex workers in Cambodia. She is author of Women and Sex Work in Cambodia: Blood, Sweat and Tears (Routledge).
Bring your questions and curiosity, and don’t forget to register beforehand! The webinar begins 2 PM Eastern Time on May 20th, looking forward to seeing you there!