Svati P. Shah
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
“Sex Work and Day Wage Labor in Mumbai’s Informal Sectors”
Thursday, March 12, 4-6pm
Discussant: Durba Mitra, Fordham University
This talk reviews the major contributions of Svati Shah’s recently published ethnography, Street Corner Secrets: Sex Work and Migration in the City of Mumbai (Duke University Press 2014). The book challenges widespread notions of selling sex in India by examining solicitation in three spaces within the city that are seldom placed within the same analytic frame – brothels, streets, and day-wage labor markets (nakas) – where women who have migrated to the city may solicit clients for sex work alongside other income-generating activities, such as construction work. Shah discusses access to housing and water, policing practices and violence, and the production of urban space in relation to the idea of sexual commerce. Showing that illicit and licit economic activities are often solicited from the same spaces, the talk will review the book’s arguments that pertain to the ways in which different modes of solicitation are signaled through the time codes that operate within these urban spaces. These differential temporalities of solicitation both produce and are produced by the legal liminality through which landless migrants secure a living in the city.