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Outsiders and Identity Reconstruction in the Sex Workers Movement in Bangladesh

NCJ Number
Sociological Spectrum Volume: 26 Issue: 3 Dated: May-June 2006 Pages: 335-357
Reshmi Chowdhury
Date Published
May 2006
23 pages
This study attempted to understand the nature of the identity construction process in a group of Bangladeshi sex workers who were active in their rights movement.
Members of a group of Bangladeshi “potita” or fallen women deconstructed this long known social identity and began the construction of their new identity of sex workers. In this deconstruction process, it was shown how potita(s) transformed in to activists. In becoming activists, sex workers made some claims through their individual and collective interactions. Four patterns of claim-making strategies were identified: associational dialecticism, oppression consciousness, resistance narrative, and essentialist contention. This study of identity reconstruction in the sex workers movement in Bangladesh is a new contribution in the social movement literature. The sex workers’ movement and their identity construction open a new frontier of research not only on sex workers, but also on other stigmatized groups in other cultures. In this study, an image is presented of how movement activists, in this case sex workers, challenged the dominant cultural order through the process of construction of their individual and collective identities. It analyzes the identity construction dynamics of Bangladeshi sex workers from a social constructionist perspective. Data were derived from an ethnographic study on the sex workers’ movement in Bangladesh which occurred in 1999. A group of marginalized women who were involved in the sex business were the main movement entrepreneurs. The sex workers questioned the deeply rooted social stigma about prostitution and inquired about their human rights. References


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