Graduate Summer 2022: Emily Sterk

(S)extractivism in the American Tropics: Sex Workers as Reproductive Laborers of National Identities, Sex Tourism, and the Global Marketplace

Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese

My dissertation studies a series of cultural and literary representations of sex tourism and sex workers’ role in the coastal tourism economies of Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Interdisciplinary in nature, my project examines the intersections between sex work and sociopolitical issues such as gender equality, LGBTQIA+ rights, racism, and (neo)colonialism within the context of the American tropics. Through an analysis of literature, films, and performances that center around sex workers and sex clients, I argue that the sex worker not only serves as a reproductive laborer that sustains the national economy, but also plays a key role in the intellectual imagination of the nation and its position in the global marketplace. In my archive, I pay special attention to the particularities of each context and their cultural productions to examine how depictions of the everyday lived experiences of sex workers intersect with the ways in which their bodies are sexualized and commodified within their national identities and economies, as well as the global sphere’s perceptions of the American tropics.