Erotic Exchanges and Informal Economies: Sex Work in Ukraine

  • Author / Creator
    Rachok, Dafna
  • This thesis inquires about sex work and informalities in Ukraine. Problematizing the dichotomy of “the happy hooker” and “the victim of trafficking,” I approach sex work as an always socially and culturally embedded phenomenon that deserves to be approached contextually. My study is based on three months of ethnographic fieldwork in the city of Kropyvnytskyi (former Kirovohrad) in Ukraine and 15 in-depth open-ended interviews with local current and former sex workers. Contextualizing sex work within informality, I inquire about informal economic and political practices that sex workers use. I show the place of informality in sex workers’ interactions with the police officers, locals, and among themselves: how inventive and imaginary sex workers are in forging various alliances in order to secure their well-being and creating extended social networks that frequently function as social security mechanisms. Drawing on feminist anthropology, I argue that sex workers are not apolitical but instead resort to informal political practices and small-scale resistance practices that are often overlooked and discounted from the sphere of the political. Last but not least, I also inquire about sex workers’ narratives about their clients. Building on these narratives, I show that they provide a glimpse of an understanding of existing social anxieties regarding such “big” issues like respectability and civilité.

  • Subjects / Keywords
  • Graduation date
    Fall 2018
  • Type of Item
  • Degree
    Master of Arts
  • DOI
  • License
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