1st Edition

Sex Work, Immigration and Social Difference

By Julie Ham Copyright 2017
    188 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    188 Pages 5 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Public discourses around migrant sex workers are often more confident about what migrant sex workers signify morally but are less clear about who the ‘migrant’ is. Based on interviews with immigrant, migrant and racialized sex workers in Vancouver, Canada and Melbourne, Australia, Sex Work, Immigration and Social Difference challenges the ‘migrant sex worker’ category by investigating the experiences of women who are often assumed to be ‘migrant sex workers’ in Australia and Canada.

    Many ‘migrant sex workers’ in Melbourne and Vancouver are in fact, naturalized citizens or permanent residents, whose involvement in the sex industry intersects with diverse ideas and experiences of citizenship in Australia and Canada. This book examines how immigrant, migrant and racialized sex workers in Vancouver and Melbourne wield or negotiate ideas of illegality and legality to obtain desired outcomes in their day-to-day work.

    Sex work continues to be the subject of fierce debate in the public sphere, at the policy level, and within research discourses. This study interrogates these perceptions of the ‘migrant sex worker’ by presenting the lived realities of women who embody or experience dimensions of this category. This book is interdisciplinary and will appeal to those engaged in criminology, sociology, law, and women’s studies.

    1. Introduction

    2. Investigating agency in sex work research

    3. Intersectionality and social difference in sex work research

    4. Power, positioning and other methodological challenges in sex work research

    5. Sex work and the non-migrant ‘migrant’

    6. Using legalities and illegalities in sex work

    7. Co-workers, clients and knowledge production in sex work

    8. Conclusion: Agency, security, mobility and social difference in sex work


    Julie Ham is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Hong Kong. She has published on sex work, anti-trafficking, gender and migration, feminist participatory action research, and activist efforts by trafficking survivors, sex workers and domestic workers. Prior to joining the Department of Sociology, she worked with the Border Crossing Observatory, Monash University; the Global Alliance Against Traffic in Women (GAATW); and with community-based research projects and organizations in Canada, working with sex workers, immigrant and refugee communities, women substance users, low-income urban communities, and anti-violence organizations.

    "Julie Ham delivers a compelling, multi-faceted account of ‘migrant sex work’. Starting with the lived realities of the women involved, she challenges public and policy perceptions of the industry. Ham’s leading-edge methodology (grounded in community engagement and reciprocity) will be a key reference for new scholars; her conclusions, a beacon for policy development and social change. A must-read for academics, lay scholars, and policy-makers alike."

    Frances M. Shaver, Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Concordia University, Canada, and researcher at (understanding) sex work: a health research & community partnership.

    "This impressive piece of research takes an empirically grounded approach to sex work in Melbourne and Vancouver that develops into a fascinating contribution to intersectionality theory. Its critique of the category of migrant sex worker and its engagement with ideas of racial difference offer important new ways to understand the positions and struggles of migrant workers more generally."

    Bridget Anderson, Professor of Migration and Citizenship and Research Director of COMPAS, University of Oxford, UK

    "Indeed, from this book scholars learn more about the 'risks, challenges and opportunities afforded by different forms of regulation' (p.125) which really does feed into the global debates on sex worker rights, regulation and social justice. For anyone teaching or researching sex work, this book brings the debates up to the minute and is also a captivating read, putting sex workers voices to the fore of the debates."

    Teela Sanders is Professor in Criminology at University of Leicester, Criminal Law and Criminal Justice Books