Sex and Borders: Gender, National Identity, and Prostitution Policy in Thailandby Leslie Ann Jeffrey
“This is an important and original study of gendered processes in postcolonial nationalisms and nation-building. Clearly and accessibly written, it will be of substantial interest to scholars and teachers of postcolonial history, anthropology, public policy, and feminist studies.”—Mary Beth Mills, author of Thai Women in the Global Labor Force: Consuming Desires, Contested Selves
“An excellent book. I read it with great enjoyment. It is full of interesting details and the argument is well constructed. For feminists interested in the issues of prostitution, and those studying Southeast Asia, this book will provide a substantial and well-researched addition. It will become a key reference within this area of scholarship.”— Marilyn Porter, co-editor of Feminists Doing Development: A Practical Critique
Prostitution in Thailand has been the subject of media sensationalism for decades. Bangkok’s brothels have become international icons of “Third World” women’s exploitation in the global sex trade. Recently, however, sex workers have begun to demand, not pity, but rights as workers in the global economy.
This book explores how prostitution policy is linked to the disciplining of Thai national identity and gender. Jeffrey asserts that certain images of “The Prostitute” have silenced discourses of prostitution as work, while fostering the idea of the peasant woman as the embodiment of national culture. This idea, coupled with a will to shape the modern state through the behavior of middle-class men, has been a main concern of Thai prostitution policy. Gender, Jeffrey argues, has become the mechanism through which states respond to the contradictory pressures of globalization and nation-building.
Based on interviews conducted in Thailand, as well as material from the media, government, and non-governmental organizations, the discussion stretches from the semi-colonial period, through the democracy movement of the 1960s and ’70s, to the present day. Sex and Borders is essential reading for those interested in gender studies, Southeast Asian studies, and the politics of prostitution.
Leslie Ann Jeffrey teaches political science in the Department of History and Politics, University of New Brunswick, Saint John campus.