Indexing Precarity: Sex Work, Money, and Meaning in Harare
(Indiana University )
Paper short abstract:
Drawing from ethnographic work and analysis of media coverage, I examine how as the Zimbabwean economy experiences wild fluctuations, sex work becomes an index of just how precarious life in Zimbabwe has become.
Paper long abstract:
In my analysis of media coverage of sex work, which has become very popular and sensationalistic in Zimbabwe, I examine how as the economy experiences wild fluctuations, sex work becomes an index of just how precarious life in Zimbabwe has become. Moreover, sex work functions as an index of the breakdown of society in general, as divorces, extra-marital relationships (known as small houses) and various types of illicit sex become visible parts of the public culture. I draw from ethnographic research conducted in a "cruising bar," along with interviews with women who have been subject to police harassment or arrest, to examine how the increased surveillance of citizens shapes women's mobility in the present-day city. Consequently, this paper considers the politics of space quite explicitly, as I look the different ways that women's bodies are constructed as they move through various cityspaces. Moreover, this essay looks at how women talk about the policing of their bodies nearly four decades after independence by troubling the discourse of postcolonial transformation proffered by the government.
Everyday Citizenship: entanglements of state power, space and citizenship in contemporary Africa