Race, space, place: Notes on the racialisation and spatialisation of commercial sex work in Dubai, UAE

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This paper focuses on the perceived racialisation and resultant spatialisation of commercial sex in Dubai. In recent years, the sex industry in Dubai has grown to include women from the Middle East, Eastern Europe, East Asia and Africa. With the increase in sex workers of different nationalities has come a form of localised racism that is embedded in structures and desires seen within specific locations. The physical spatialisation of sex work hinges on perceived race and produces distinct income generating potential for women engaged in the sex industry in Dubai. The social and physical topography of Dubai is important in marginalising or privileging these various groups of sex workers, which correlates race, space and place with rights and assistance. I begin with a description of the multidirectional flows of causality between race, space, place and demand. I then discuss how these various groups are inversely spatialised within the discourse on assistance, protection and rights. The findings presented here are based on ethnographic research conducted with transnational migrants in the UAE in 2004, 2008 and 2009.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)943-954
Number of pages12
JournalCulture, Health and Sexuality
Issue number8
StatePublished - Oct 20 2010



  • Dubai
  • Migration
  • Sex work
  • Trafficking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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