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The Sexual Question
A History of Prostitution in Peru, 1850s–1950s

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Part of Cambridge Latin American Studies

  • Date Published: April 2020
  • availability: In stock
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781108717281

$ 35.99 (P)

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About the Authors
  • The creation of Lima's red light district in 1928 marked the culminating achievement of the promoters of regulation who sought to control the spread of venereal disease by medically policing female prostitutes. Its closure in 1956 was arguably the high point of abolitionism, a transnational movement originating in the 1860s that advocated that regulation was not only ineffective from a public health perspective, but also morally wrong. The Sexual Question charts this cyclic process of regulation and abolition in Peru, uncovering the ideas, policies, and actors shaping the debates on prostitution in Lima and beyond. The history of prostitution, Paulo Drinot shows, sheds light on the interplay of gender and sexuality, medicine and public health, and nation-building and state formation in Peru. With its compelling historical lens, this landmark study offers readers an engaging narrative, and new perspectives on Latin American studies, social policy, and Peruvian history.

    • Based on extensive, rich sources that include letters written by prostitutes themselves
    • Presents analysis which is empirically driven and engaging
    • Enhances strong scholarship on the history of prostitution in Latin America and beyond
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    • Honorable Mention, 2021 Bryce Wood Book Award, Latin American Studies Association

    Reviews & endorsements

    'The value of Drinot’s The Sexual Question is not just as a history of prostitution and venereal disease control over the course of a century in Peru, but in the dialogue that he establishes with related fields such as gender and sexuality, medicine, public health, and the state itself. I highly recommend it.' Peter Klaren, Professor Emeritus, George Washington University

    'The Sexual Question is an admirable monograph by one of the leading historians of modern Peru. Based on both extensive original research and a sophisticated theoretical framework, Drinot addresses a hitherto understudied topic and illuminates the complex relationship between sexuality, culture, science, urban dynamics, and politics in the making of modern Peru. This is a path-breaking study that deserves wide readership.' Carlos Aguirre, University of Oregon

    'In this rich analysis, Paulo Drinot ferrets out and pieces together an impressive range of sources from medicine, literature and much more, to show the shifting contours of ‘the sexual question’ in Peru. In addition to a wide-ranging analysis of urban processes in Lima, he also explores images of and policies about venereal disease among the Indigenous population and military conscripts from rural areas. It will be of great interest to scholars of Latin American politics, culture and history, as well as those interested in the history of sexuality and public health.' Kim Clark, author of Gender, State and Medicine in Highland Ecuador: Modernizing Women, Modernizing State, 1895-1950

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    Product details

    • Date Published: April 2020
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781108717281
    • length: 328 pages
    • dimensions: 228 x 151 x 19 mm
    • weight: 0.49kg
    • contains: 8 b/w illus. 2 maps
    • availability: In stock
  • Table of Contents

    1. Regulating prostitution
    2. Protecting men
    3. Policing women
    4. Medicalizing sin
    5. Combating venereal disease
    6. Abolishing vice.

  • Author

    Paulo Drinot, University College London
    Paulo Drinot is Associate Professor of Latin American history at University College London. He is the author of The Allure of Labor: Workers, Race, and the Making of the Peruvian State (2011); editor of Che's Travels: The Making of a Revolutionary in 1950s Latin America (2010), Peru in Theory (2014), and La Patria Nueva (2018); and co-editor of Más allá de la dominación y la resistencia (2005), The Great Depression in Latin America (2014), Comics and Memory in Latin America (2017), and The Peculiar Revolution: Rethinking the Peruvian Experiment under Military Rule (2017).


    • Honorable Mention, 2021 Bryce Wood Book Award, Latin American Studies Association

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