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Sex at the Margins: Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

13 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-1842778593
ISBN-10: 1842778595
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Editorial Reviews


"Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality." -- Lisa Adkins, Goldsmiths, University of London

"In restoring those living on the fringes of western societies to their full humanity, this invigorating book undermines our stereotypes and provides a challenging but unforgettable picture." -- Jeffrey Weeks, London South Bank University

"Sex at the Margins elegantly demonstrates that what happens to poor immigrant working women from the Global South when they 'leave home for sex' is neither a tragedy nor the panacea of finding the promised land. Above all, Agustín shows that the moralizing bent of most government and NGO programs have little to do with these women's experiences and wishes. This book questions some of our most cherished modern assumptions, and shows that a different ethics of concern is possible." -- Arturo Escobar, University of North Carolina

About the Author

Laura María Agustín studies cultural and postcolonial issues linking commercial sex, migration, informal economies and feminist theory. She currently lives in London, researching the situation of migrant workers in the city's sex industry.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Zed Books (May 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1842778595
  • ISBN-13: 978-1842778593
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.6 x 10.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,673,462 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Susie Bright on September 4, 2007
Format: Hardcover
What a relief to have a different conversation about sex and economics outside of the usual morality/rescue mentality. My first reaction to reading the book was to want to meet the author, talk to her all day, and then take her on tour to discuss it with everyone else.

This is the wave of the future, when it comes to discussing "prositution," which already seems like quaint terminology. If you're someone who's interested in progressive sexual politics and how the world works, you are going to EAT THIS UP.

The author does write like a scientific observer, an academic. I appreciated her style and perspective. I would almost say it's not beach reading but actually I read it lying under a mosquito net under one of the most beautiful beachside locations in California. Everyone kept passing me food and tabloid gossip magazines, and I refused them until I got to the last page.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Doug Henwood on December 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
This book is an excellent antidote to all the fantasies about rescue that the high-minded indulge in when they want to save sex workers from their allegedly miserable fate. There are many complex reasons why people - and it's not just women, as Agustin reminds us - perform sexual acts for money, and it would be a good idea for their self-nominated saviors to listen. And there are many complex reasons why people patronize sex workers - it's not just "exploitation," as sex-work abolitionists believe.

Oh and it illuminates the weird affinity between some "fundamentalist feminists" and the religious right, not an attractive alliance.

Though the book is mostly about sex workers who travel from their homelands to ply their trade, the book also helps us think about the whole issue of migration, and our contemporary paranoia about immigrants. The whole notion of "migrants" is deeply class biased; no one ever called an Indian bond trader working in New York a migrant. But he or she has travelled for the same reasons as dishwashers, nannies, and strippers - to make money, for sure, but also to see the world, or escape suffocating origins.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Wanda A. Farian on November 12, 2007
Format: Paperback
The writer gives us a new perspective of sex work and migration i.e. trafficking; one that questions the "victim" status commonly given to prostitutes and those who leave their home country for work abroad. A very good read, it will be lent out so much I'll want to buy a second copy.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Gregory A. Butler on July 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
I applaud Professor Agustin's book - it's about time that a book about sex work actually listens to what sex workers have to say! There is this constant drumbeat of "rescue" propaganda, that presents cisgendered female sex workers as "fallen women" who need to be "saved" from their jobs by upper class ladies (and totally ignores the existence of cisgendered male and transgendered sex workers). Professor Agustin totally breaks with that, lets the voice of sex workers enter the room and challenges the respectable affluent ladies, the cops and the bible thumpers and their reactionary anti sex worker agenda. She also exposes the subtle racism and xenophobia that lies behind many of these "anti human trafficking" campaigns.

Professor Agustin's book is actually very readable for an academic tome and I applaud her for that also.

So, if you want to know the real deal about sex work and "human trafficking" you need to buy Professor Agustin's book "Sex At The Margins".
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Thaddeus G. Blanchette on January 6, 2015
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In terms of academic heft, there may be better books that tackle the mess that is modern abolitionism, its take-over of the global anti-trafficking movement and the transformation of the human rights struggle into a new, convoluted form of anti-immigrant prejudice. There is no better book than this, however, for a general overview and introduction.

Agustín's work has become a classic in the fields of sex work and immigration studies. It is safe to say that no book has irritated or inspired more people in the anti-trafficking field than this one.

And because Laura has snarked about "classic" in her comments below, let me define that word.

1) When someone comes up to me and says "I am interested in learning about trafficking. Where should I start reading?", this book is the first thing that springs to mind.

2) It goes against the grain of the received wisdom of the times and yet hits its subject matter square on, in such a way that you'll never be able to hear someone say "trafficking" again without thinking of it, whether or not you agree with Agustin.

3) Because so much of the subject matter is absolutely contaminated by moral panic and bulls*** in other books -- even well-meaning academic books -- but is not contaminated HERE, people are still going to be reading this a century from now and saying "Yes!" when 99.9% of what is now written about so-called trafficking will read like Victorian screeds against masturbation do today.

They best comparison I can make is with Emma Goldman's classic (I do not use this term lightly or ironically) 1910 dissection of that generation's anti-trafficking panic.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By ewaffle on November 25, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not sure if this book is groundbreaking but it certainly is a unique and well documented look at women who migrate to become sex workers. Laura Augustin has a Ph.D. and a refreshing attitude toward what has become called "trafficking" but which she shows is often the best choice a woman in the global South has of supporting herself and her family. She really goes after the canard that all migrating sex workers are controlled by vicious pimps and that none of them are economic migrants looking for a better life.

Augustin does a great job in punching through the thick accretion of myth that has built up around the subject through a combination of ethnographic interviews and reviews of literature. Her discussion of the "rescue industry" is devastating, showing that much of its statistical basis is either created from whole cloth or interpolated from inadequate or biased samples.

This is social science with a very welcome edge.
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