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Political Science City Planning & Urban Development

Street Sex Work and Canadian Cities

Resisting a Dangerous Order

by (author) Shawna Ferris

The University of Alberta Press
Initial publish date
Feb 2015
City Planning & Urban Development, Globalization, Urban, Women's Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Feb 2015
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Mar 2015
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“Our voices scrubbed out and forgotten. There are those who research and write about sex workers who often forget we are human.” —Amy Lebovitch

Shawna Ferris gives a voice to sex workers who are often pushed to the background, even by those who fight for them. In the name of urban safety and orderliness, street sex workers face stigma, racism, and ignorance. Their human rights are ignored, and some even lose their lives. Ferris aims to reveal the cultural dimensions of this discrimination through literary and art-critical theory, legal and sociological research, and activist intervention.

Canadian cities are striving for high safety ratings by eliminating crime, which includes “cleaning” urban areas of the street sex industry. Ironically, sex workers also want to live and work in a safe environment. Ferris questions these sanitizing political agendas, reviews exclusionary legislative and police initiatives, and examines media representations of sex workers.

This book has much to offer to educators and activists, sex workers and anti-violence organizations, and academics studying women, cultural, gender, or indigenous issues. Foreword by Amy Lebovitch.

About the author

Shawna Ferris teaches and researches in the areas of sex work/prostitution studies, critical race studies, decolonization, and violence against women, with an emphasis on representation and resistance. She is interested in cultural representations of and responses to sex work/ers, as well as cultural marginalization, and raced classed and gendered violence resulting from the same. Her current research examines anti-violence, anti-racism, and decolonization-oriented commemorative activism stemming from the growing number of missing and murdered women in urban centres across Canada.

Shawna Ferris' profile page


  • Winner, Outstanding Scholarship Prize, Women's and Gender Studies et Recherches Feminists Association (WGSRF)
  • Winner, Scholarly and Academic Book Award, Alberta Book Publishing Awards, Book Publishers Association of Alberta
  • Winner, Manitoba Book Awards / Eileen McTavish Sykes Award for Best First Book

Editorial Reviews

Ferris presents compelling evidence of how the representations of and responses to sex-work in Canadian cities reflect a necropolitical global-capitalist agenda that contradicts the liberal democratic ideals that the Canadian nation-state purports to uphold. Likewise, she offers a nuanced and complex analysis of how the experiences of Canadian urban street sex-workers and the representations of them by others must be understood from the intersections of class, gender, and race.

Left History

"'Why did the murder of 14 white, educated women at École Polytechnique in 1989 inspire parliamentary outrage and a legislative response from the Department of Justice, while the 'disappearance' of 65 poor, mainly Aboriginal women in Vancouver was treated as a police matter?.. Canada tolerates no capital punishment but has been oddly indifferent to the death penalty meted out to 'missing' women, Ferris writes... Street Sex Work shocks. It is also insightful and dark and worthwhile for any reader who is not afraid to dive in the deep end." [Full review at]

Blacklock's Reporter

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