I. India Thusi is Professor of Law at Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law and a Senior Scientist at the Kinsey Institute. Her research adopts an anthropological methodology and examines racial and sexual hierarchies as they relate to policing, race, and gender. Her articles and essays have been published or are forthcoming in the Harvard Law Review, NYU Law Review, California Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, Georgetown Law Journal, Cornell Law Review, amongst others.
Sex work occupies a legally gray space in Johannesburg, South Africa, and police attitudes towards it are inconsistent and largely unregulated. This results in both room for negotiation that can benefit sex workers and also extreme precarity in which the security police officers provide can be offered and taken away at a moment’s notice. Sex work straddles the line between formal and informal. Attitudes about beauty and subjective value are manifest in formal tasks, including police activities, which are often conducted in a seemingly ad hoc manner. However, high-level organizational directives intended to regulate police obligations and duties toward sex workers also influence police action and tilt the exercise of discretion to the formal. In this liminal space, this book considers how sex work is policed and how it should be policed. Challenging discourses about sexuality and gender that inform its regulation, Thusi’s forthcoming book Policing Bodies exposes the limitations of dominant feminist arguments regarding the legal treatment of sex work. This in-depth, historically informed ethnography illustrates the tension between enforcing a country’s laws and protecting citizens’ human rights.