Exotic Dance and Other Stories of Transformations– An Ethnographic Study in Swedish Strip Clubs

University essay from Göteborgs universitet/Institutionen för kulturvetenskaper

Abstract: The main question of this thesis is how in the social world of stripping the dominant order of symbolicvalues is renegotiated and exotic dancers undertake processes of transformation. The aim of the studyis to look deeper inside those changes, and show how they are contextual to the reality in which theytake place. The research has been conducted through participant observations and interviews with tenstrippers in two strip clubs of a Swedish city from November 2014 to May 2015.Dancers subjectivize themselves through a personal redefinition of dominant narratives. How do theyrelate to the public display of female erotica and what consequences do they face for breaking theaccepted standards of respectability? Their projection of femininity is one based in the embodiedimaginary of an ‘exaggerated’ working class femininity, and this sheds light on the performative natureof gender, and how it is marked by class. Furthermore, narratives about nakedness are alsorenegotiated: in performance the stripped body is naturalized and re-sexualized. Finally, stripperspersonally redefine bodily intimacy and accessibility.The transformative potential of striptease is put into practice in the lived experiences of strippers, and,at the same time, it remains a ‘potential’ because it does not manage to reach beyond the segregated,‘abnormal’ space of the club, into the performers’ and audience’s wider social worlds. I suggest that afeminist alliance between sex workers and sex workers’ theorists is needed in order to overcome the stigma that surrounds striptease and to eventually liberate its subversive potential.

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