Imagining Women: Prostitution, the Aestheticization of the Whore and the Social Organization of Desire

Part three ‘Feminist Postmodernisms and Ethnographies of Difference: Between Modernity and Postmodernity’ of Maggie O’Neill’s book ‘Prostitution and Feminism: Towards a Politics of Feeling’ Looks at the ‘social organisation of desire and the aestheticization of the whore in contemporary society’.

Drawing from a variety of sources including historical texts, Psychoanalytical theory, critiques of art and ethnographic research O’Neill threads together a range of ideas on the historical, social and cultural perceptions of prostituion and women perceived to be ‘fallen’ or of dubious morality. She suggests that although representations of prostitution or the whore in art and literature can reinforce pre-existing social stereotypes they also have the potential to change them.

‘Our social worlds are made up of structures of gender domination embedded in psychic and social practices, structures and processes. Postmodern interpretive ethnographies, working in participatory ways across disciplines and genres – for example across community arts, photography or performance art – can illluminate and challenge ideological structures and effects through ‘feeling forms’. ‘Feeling forms’ can incite us to feel and engage with the affects, sentiments and experiences of marginalised peoples and motivate us to act, thus giving rise to a politics of feeling.’

Historical texts look at the epic poem of Gilgamesh 1700BC which contains the earliest reference to a prostitute.

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