Precarious Intimacies: Commercial Sex and Migration Under the Nordic Model


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




In 1999, Sweden claimed a feminist approach to commercial sex and aimed to abolish prostitution by targeting the demand and criminalizing the buying of sex while keeping the selling decriminalized. Since then, this so-called Nordic model has taken center stage in global prostitution and anti-trafficking debates and has spread globally. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in the Nordic region, the project examines the cultural dynamics and social struggles that inform this turn in debates around prostitution, as well as the everyday realities of people who sell sex under it. The project demonstrates that, contrary to its feminist and humanitarian aura, client criminalization masks punitive practices that especially target migrants who sell sex, and argues that the success of the Nordic model lies in its ability to symbolize a humanitarian state in an era of intensified redistributive inequality.