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In Session: Queering Racialized Capital and Labor across Asian/Pacific Time and Space
4: Racialized Criminalization: A Comparative Study of Chinese Migrant and Black Sex Workers’ Labor and Activism in the North America
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
Seattle Office for Civil Rights, United States
This paper explores the lives and activism of Chinese migrant sex workers and massage parlor workers in North America. First, my analysis of these women’s oral histories shows that their racialized and feminized care work is inseparable from the globalized “made in China” production chain. In fact, their stories reveal an understudied connection between China’s productions of goods for the global market and its supplies of caring bodies to the transnational service industries. The paper then examines how activists use these Chinese workers’ oral narratives in their campaigns advocating for sex workers’ safety and rights. I will elaborate on two of these campaigns: “no raids, no rescue” and “sex work + migration ≠ trafficking,” and explain how the activists use the workers’ narratives to display the legal dilemmas that these women have experienced and to support their legal and non-legal demands.
Finally, the paper explains how the Asian migrant workers’’s activism interacts with Black sex workers, particularly Black trans sex workers’ activism in the United States. I highlight those moments when these two groups differ, collapse, or collaborate in their strategies. On the one hand, these two groups of workers are racialized, gendered, and sexualized in dramatically different ways in the United States and are pushed into dissimilar legal dilemmas. Therefore, they deploy different tactics and discourses. On the other hand, both fight against the current legal apparatus and demand a decriminalization and redefinition of “violence” and “work.”