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Resistance and Reinforcement: Rethinking the Underclass Commercial Sex Worker Discourse in Sri Lanka

Author:

Nandaka Maduranga Kalugampitiya

University of Peradeniya, LK
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Abstract

The study takes a discourse analysis approach to the underclass commercial sex worker (CSW) discourse. While critiquing the many existing studies/accounts of CSWs for their failure to go beyond the dominant conceptualization of commercial sex work and their tendency to assess the concerned discourse in terms of the standards of the hegemonic mainstream discourse, the study underscores the need for alternative ways of understanding that discourse. The study is based on the life narratives of twelve underclass CSWs representing three categories (those who work at inexpensive guesthouses, those who are accessed on the street and work in rooms, and those who live and work on the street) gathered using (1) formal and informal interviews conducted mainly with underclass CSWs and also with threewheeler drivers (TWDs) and (2) field observations in the Kandy area in 2006-2007. Based on an analysis of (1) the sympathy-stories in terms of which they discuss their “predicament” with certain outsiders, (2) the identity-formation process in the CSW discourse, and (3) the symbiotic relationship between certain underclass CSWs and TWDs, the paper argues that the CSWs’ response to the dominant hegemonic discourse is marked by a complex mix of resistance and reinforcement. The study concludes with the argument that the CSWs’ resistance mainly takes the form of exploring alternatives necessarily within the existing value system and social structure(s).

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.4038/sljh.v38i1-2.7212

The Sri Lanka Journal of Humanities XXXVIII (1&2) 2012; 25-41

DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljh.v38i1-2.7212
How to Cite: Kalugampitiya, N.M., (2014). Resistance and Reinforcement: Rethinking the Underclass Commercial Sex Worker Discourse in Sri Lanka. Sri Lanka Journal of Humanities. 38(1-2), pp.25–41. DOI: http://doi.org/10.4038/sljh.v38i1-2.7212
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Published on 26 Jul 2014.
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