I have been researching Swedish sex work policy and discourse since the late 1990´s, using social anthropological method and theory. What have interested me mostly are paradoxes and contradictions within this field, something I have explored in my Masters Thesis The Ideological Sin: Modern Swedish Prostitution Policy as Creating a Sense of Identity and Safety (2003) and the book Porn, Whores and Feminists (2006).
In my Doctoral Thesis with the working title The Swedish Sex Purchase Ban: Ethnography of a Law I explore the functions of the Sex Purchase Ban and links these to wider socio-political events and discourses.
During the autumn of 2008, I started my doctoral studies in social anthropology at Lund University. The working title of my thesis is: The Swedish Sex Purchase Ban: Ethnography of a Law.
There are many features about the Swedish ban on sex purchase that can be approached from a social anthropological perspectives: there is a gap between its claimed success and documented effects, the discourse is emotionally and morally charged, and it is a legal prohibition (rather than a policy) that different actors in Sweden wish to export and which those abroad seek to import. However, the law is never imported directly. It may be distorted and of course, rejected. Hence, the sex purchase law thus has different sets of meanings to the the different actors involved. It is a field of moral and political conflict, with its set of perpetrators, victims, witnesses and advocates.
My Ph.D. research explores the functions of the Sex Purchase Ban and links these to wider socio-political events and discourses. It seeks to understand the law’s intentions, meanings and aims within its cultural context. One could also articulate it like this: What problem is the Sex Purchase Ban an answer to? In what way can the law be a key, a window, to understanding something else about the role of law, and ‘legal export’, in modern societies? What is that something else?
I have utilised a multi-sited fieldwork methodology, having visited several countries where there was a discussion about importing the Swedish law, and have done participant-observation and interviews in a variety of legal and policy forums connected with sex workers and anti-prostitution venues. My theoretical orientation is a combination of political anthropology, legal anthropology, moral anthropology and the anthropology of policy.
The first three years of the PhD were funded by a grant from the Axel and Margaret Ax:son Johnson Foundation, and the final year via doctoral employment at Lund University.
For more information about my work, see www.petraostergren.com
I am also the Swedish project leader for DemandAT - Demand-side Measures Against Trafficking - a research project that examines approaches addressing and reducing demand for trafficking in human beings through anti-trafficking efforts and policies. The project is interdisciplinary and funded by the EU's Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration. It includes nine partners from different European countries and is coordinated by the International Centre for Migration Policy Development in Vienna. The project runs from January 2014 to the spring of 2017. The total cost is EUR 3.2 million, of which 2.5 million have been funded by the EU. Lund University has received EUR 290 490 through the project.
As a whole the project examines the role demand plays in relation to human trafficking and measures directed at the demand side to reduce trafficking in various areas, such as global commodity production, household services and begging. The project explores what demand means in the context of trafficking research and takes a broad approach to trafficking, analysing a range of forced and exploitative labour scenarios and importing insights from other fields.
The aim is to provide a theoretical and empirical background that could inform policy decisions at the European and national level, to eliminate or at least reduce the suffering of the worst forms of exploitation. The research conducted within the frames of the project will culminate in policy recommendations.
The Swedish study focuses on human trafficking for sexual purposes. We will, for instance, compare prostitution policies in Sweden, Germany and New Zealand. Our purpose is to understand how the policy of each country addresses the issue and how this takes shape in practice. We will looks at legal frameworks but since this only provides a limited picture of the impact policies have, the study will also draw from interviews with key stakeholders as a way to gain insight into the practical effects of policy. Another part of the Swedish study consists of interviews with buyers of sexual services.
DemandAT has its own website where more background information can be found, as well as ongoing updates on the research.
An important part of the project is to make the knowledge generated through the project available to key players. Upon completion a seminar will be organised and the results will be made available to the public.
Photograph (c) Orlando G Boström
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