LINGUIST List 32.49

Tue Jan 05 2021

FYI: Call for Chapter Contributions - 'The Language of Sex Work'

Editor for this issue: Everett Green <>

Date: 05-Jan-2021
From: Benedict Rowlett <>
Subject: Call for Chapter Contributions - 'The Language of Sex Work'
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Sex work has long been of interest to a variety of fields, among them anthropology, sociology, public health, feminist theory, and to a lesser extent, sociolinguistics. Much of the research on commercial sex points to the fact that, as an intersubjective business transaction, it is primarily negotiated in linguistic interaction. The language of sex work, however, has received little systematic attention. This book aims to fill this gap. For this project we use the term “sex work” broadly, to refer to the multitude of contexts and practices (services, venues etc.) where bodily and/or emotional intimacy is exchanged for material gain. We, Rodrigo Borba and Benedict Rowlett (co-editors) are seeking chapter contributions to a volume, tentatively titled ‘The Language of Sex Work’, to be published within the next two years.

Our rationale for the book project comes from a desire to bring together work that raises scholarly and critical awareness of the crucial role that language plays in contexts of sexual transaction and what this attention to language can tell us about various intersectional nexus points (gender, sexuality, race, class, etc.) and agency. More specifically, we are interested in the “tricks” that sex work may play on current sociocultural linguistic theories and methodologies when considering sex work as a power-infused context where (lack of) agency is paramount (Borba, forthcoming). As such, we see this edited collection (the first of its kind as far as we are aware) as making a significant impact towards advancing interdisciplinary discussions on this topic in feminism, anthropology, sociology, and sociocultural linguistics.

Topics of interest we see the chapters potentially (re)addressing include (but are not limited to):
- How both sides of the dichotomy between oppression and empowerment may emerge in sex worker narratives.
- How identity may be decoupled from desire in performances of sex work, urging us to rethink both identity and desire as complexly produced in interaction.
- How discourses of criminalization and liberation intersect at local and translocal contexts to produce different understanding of sex work in legal, medical, political, and mediatic contexts.
- How clients talk about sex work and narrate their relations with sex workers.
- How feminist, queer, and transfeminist discourses differently frame sex work in different national contexts
- How sex workers may strategically control the embodiment of language and of self.
- Confronting dominant ideologies that position women’s language as powerless and men’s language as powerful. For example, how do sex workers repurpose gendered expectations to financial advantage?
- Investigating the methodological challenges that research on the language of sex work poses e.g. to move away from a reliance on audio and visual recordings by exploring other ways of capturing interactions between sex worker and client that give us insight into the pragmatics and metapragmatics shaping their social actions.

It is important to note that we take an expansive view of language (semiosis) in this project, and consider any contribution that takes a discourse (broadly defined) or social semiotic approach to sex work/sexual transaction suitable for inclusion.

Please send a tentative title and 200-word abstract by the end of March 2021 to Rodrigo and Ben Please also include your name and contact information. We look forward to receiving your abstracts.

Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics

Subject Language(s): English (eng)
Language Family(ies): English

Page Updated: 05-Jan-2021