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T he analytical potency of prostitution has to do with how “it”—prostitution—is always bound up with other discourses. It cannot be defined except in relation to and in the terms of philosophy, psychoanalysis , economics, history and—perhaps most obviously—law. Prostitution is included within the discursive purview of any discipline that criminalizes or rationalizes it, or that represents, bemoans, judges or bans it; so it cannot be explained exclusively in relation to any one of these disciplines without conjuring up aspects of the others. While it may be defined temporarily in the language and logic of any of them, such a definition remains context-specific. At the same time, in talking about prostitution any discipline exceeds its own boundaries. This study defines prostitution as a discourse, focusing first on the way it emerged from other discourses in Latin America and was formalized in relation to Naturalism between 1880–1930, and then on how it has rewritten its own conditions of emergence over the next hundred years. While the literature of prostitution in Latin America is rich and varied, I focus on how particular tropes, narrative techniques and—most of all—characterizations of literary prostitutes have triumphed. Latin American literature of prostitution during its modern consolidation under Naturalism thematized intersectional colonial anxieties about race, 1 Prostitution as a (Meta)Discourse k introduction K 2 Introduction class, ethnicity and gender and reconfigured them in relation to the nation. Close readings of literary fictions of prostitution from the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty-first centuries—together with a broader survey of legal, medical and economic writings on prostitution during the time period—show that many elements of the discursive specificity prostitution had acquired from other disciplines endured in literature far beyond their relevance in law or medicine. At the same time, aspects of Naturalism appear unexpectedly in contemporary literature of prostitution, long past the time when such devices were linked to a mimetic representation of reality or to prevailing social views. The time frame for the solidification of prostitution as a discourse also coincides with an international scandal about prostitution and so-called “white slavery” that rocked Europe and the Americas beginning around 1880. The epicenter of the worldwide prostitution “mafias” was in some real and some imaginary ways Buenos Aires. For this reason, Buenos Aires and, by extension, Argentina, became central to the discourse of prostitution both within Latin America and internationally; and the name “Buenos Aires” came to symbolize prostitution and trafficking, for which Argentine Jews were disproportionately blamed. Contemporary literature of prostitution has taken up the topic of historical “Jewish White Slavery,” mobilizing the Naturalist regime that accompanies prostitution into even the most contemporary literature to rewrite the historical moment of prostitution’s inception as a discourse —in the terms and with the literary tools of that discourse. To address this complexity, I’ve divided my study into two parts. The first part, comprising Chapters 1 and 2, focuses on a Latin American corpus which explores how, from the 1880s to the 1930s, a set of narrative guidelines and contents are solidified under the aegis of Naturalism in the form of legal, medical and economic discourses that coincided with and participated in the consolidation of the modern states. Despite the explicit thematic engagement with the national in Naturalist texts, the emergent discourse of prostitution is in important ways international. I trace how the legacy of Naturalism is embedded in prostitution as a discourse: it reemerges in later literature, reanimating and deconstructing a literary regime infused with the incipiently national philosophical, legal and economic concerns of the late nineteenth century in a recursive movement. As a metonym for human trafficking at the time of its consolidation as a modern state, and as home to the greatest twentieth-century example of organized prostitution in America, Argentina merits the attention of the entire second half of the book, which tracks contemporary historical fiction on the topic of Jewish white slavery during the period from 1880–1930 in Buenos Aires, exploring how it was that the ethnically, nationally and geographically Prostitution as a (Meta)Discourse 3 varied practices of prostitution during that time period, as well as the rich literature of the same era, came to be retroactively simplified by way of this minority synecdoche, reducing Latin America to Argentina to Buenos Aires, prostitution to organized Jewish crime, and the prostitute to a resurrected version of the nineteenth-century archetypal “blanca”—a poor, ignorant Eastern European Jewish girl, sold into prostitution under false...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780814271353
Print ISBN
9780814212479
MARC Record
OCLC
876736328
Pages
256
Launched on MUSE
2014-04-15
Language
English
Open Access
N
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