Policing Bodies: Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg @inGerri

About the Book

Sex work occupies a legally grey space in Johannesburg, South Africa, and police attitudes towards it are inconsistent and largely unregulated. As I. India Thusi argues in Policing Bodies, this results in both rooms for negotiation that can benefit sex workers and also extreme precarity in which the security police officers provide can be offered and taken away at a moment’s notice. Sex work straddles the line between formal and informal. Attitudes about beauty and subjective value are manifest informal tasks, including police activities, which are often conducted in a seeming ad hoc manner. However, high-level organizational directives intended to regulate police obligations and duties toward sex workers also influence police action and tilt the exercise of discretion to the formal. In this liminal space, this book considers how sex work is policed and how it should be policed. Challenging discourses about sexuality and gender that inform its regulation, Thusi exposes the limitations of dominant feminist arguments regarding the legal treatment of sex work. This in-depth historically informed ethnography illustrates the tension between enforcing a country’s laws and protecting citizens’ human rights.

About the Author

Professor of Law at the Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law and a Senior Scientist at the Kinsey Institute. Her research examines racial and sexual hierarchies as they relate to policing, race, sexuality, and gender. She was selected as a Fulbright U.S. Global Scholar for 2020-2023. Her past work has been selected for the 2020 Stanford/Harvard/Yale Junior Faculty Forum; Honorable Mention for the Law & Society John Hope Franklin Award; and the 2021 Equality Law Scholars’ Forum.

Qn 1: Can you tell us more about your book What is it about?

The book is about the policing of sex workers and provides insights into whether we should rely on the police to regulate marginalized communities.

Qn 2: Who do you think would be interested in this book, is it directed at any particular market?

Everyone who has had a university education and especially those interested in Ivy league, the “old” part of the USA –

I think anyone who is thinking policing, gender, or sexuality would find something useful in this book.

Qn 3: Out of all the books in the world, and all the authors, which are your favourite and why?

I love Toni Morrison, and my favourite books are Song of Solomon and the Bluest Eye. Both books have insights about how girls and women are expected to live up to racialized standards are beauty– a theme that is in my book.

Qn 4: What guidance would you offer to someone new, or trying to enhance their writing?

Just get started. I think the biggest is taking the leap to get started and getting out of your head.

Qn 5: Where can our readers find out more about you, do you have a website, or a way to be contacted?


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