MA European Ethnology / Humboldt-Universität Berlin
BA Cultural Anthropology, German Studies / Duke University
Working Dissertation Title
Precarious Legality: Collective Action, Mobilisation, and Representation of Sex Workers in Germany
My research project takes the challenge of sex worker mobilisation as a starting point to investigate the factors that encourage or discourage sex workers from joining groups that take action for the improvement of their social status and the political context affecting their work. Although sex work and commercial sex venues are legal in Germany, allowing sex workers to be employed and receive social protections, social stigma continues to be a pervasive barrier to social integration for many sex workers and also for the progress of the sex worker rights movement. In response to the continuing plight of sex workers, sex work counselling centres have been established as points of contact for sex workers to seek advice for personal, financial, and social issues. These centres have served as the foundation of the sex worker rights movement in Germany, recently joined by the first sex worker-led organisation founded in 2013 called the Professional Association for Erotic and Sexual Service Providers (BesD). In this context, I ask how long-time and new members of the BesD work together to carry out collective action and to what extent the interests and needs of non-member sex workers are reflected by the priorities of the BesD.Based on participatory action and feminist research approaches, I am undertaking a year-long study on collective action and worker mobilisation within the sex worker rights movement in Germany. The study involves one-to-one interviews with non-member sex workers in five different cities in Germany (Berlin, Hamburg, Stuttgart, Cologne, and Munich), three focus group discussion with members of the BesD and participant-observation of events organised and carried out as part of the sex worker rights movement. Through these methods, the goal is to understand the factors that drive sex workers towards or away from the activities of the sex worker rights movement and to use these insights to contribute to a strategy for greater representation and inclusion of sex workers in the BesD.