Reba and Her Insurgent Prose: Sex Work, HIV/AIDS, and Subaltern Narratives

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Narratives of cultural stakeholders in marginalized sex worker spaces often do not find the traction to influence mainstream health discourse. Furthermore, such narratives are framed against the grain of the dominant cultural narrative; they are resistive texts, and they depict enactments of resistance to the normal order. This article, based on 12 weeks of field study in a sex worker community in India, foregrounds how sex workers communicatively frame and enact resistance, and hence formulate insurgent texts, along a continuum—from overt violence to covert negotiation on issues such as condom and alcohol use. Making note of these insurgent texts is crucial to understanding how meanings of health are locally made in a sex worker community as it is often that members of such marginalized communities take recourse to covert and ritualistic forms of resistance to work, to survive, and to stay free of HIV infection.

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