Wednesday, May 21, 2008

History of Dockside Prostitution in South Africa

Dockside Prostitution in South African PortsWhile preparing my forthcoming book, Sugar Girls & Seamen, I researched and wrote an article about the history of dockside prostitution in South Africa. This exercise gave me greater insights into the reality I was encountering at the seamen's clubs of today. Just published by the journal History Compass, it is titled "Dockside Prostitution in South African Ports."

Here's the abstract:
Prostitution has been a staple of dockside social life for centuries. In South Africa, it dates from the Dutch East India Company's establishment of a refreshment station at the Cape of Good Hope. But unlike other prostitution sectors—streets, brothels, agencies—the women of the dockside sex trade in Cape Town and Durban participate in a global traffic of ideas, diseases, DNA, contraband, and currency through their ceaseless interactions with foreign sailors. They exploit their knowledge of the seamen's languages and cultures so as to more effectively solicit their marks in a competitive and cosmopolitan environment.

Social historians provide passing glimpses of dockside prostitution in their consideration of larger historical themes—Company rule, slavery, British colonial governance, the Mineral Revolution, the Anglo-Boer War, and apartheid—but they have yet to treat it as a distinct analytical category through which to view the past. Yet popular intellectual trends suggest that research into the dockside sex trade would add new dimensions to the histories of cosmopolitanism, gender, globalization, maritime recreation, and the Atlantic and Indian Oceans.

This article provides a quick and accessible introduction to the historiography of dockside prostitution in South Africa.

History CompassNote: This article is available for subscribers to History Compass. If you are a student, you will be able to download the article through a university computer if your institution has an account with History Compass.

Click on the PDF icon to go to the History Compass article page:

Trotter, Henry. "Dockside Prostitution in South African Ports," History Compass Vol.6, No.3 (2008): 673-690.

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