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Forthcoming book is a thrilling exploration of policing sex workers in Johannesburg

“Policing Bodies” by I. India Thusi is an exploration of policing sex workers in Johannesburg with important implications for law enforcement around the world

NEW YORK, NY, UNITED STATES, December 13, 2021 / — “Policing Bodies: Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg” by I. India Thusi is set to be released worldwide on December 21, 2021. This transformative work examines relationships between police and sex workers in Johannesburg, South Africa, where legal ambiguity has led to inconsistent action and attitudes among law enforcement, leaving room for violence and stigma despite increased focus on human rights and social welfare.

With Johannesburg as the backdrop, Thusi addresses broad issues of police violence, particularly among marginalized communities, and raises essential questions about the role of policing in society, how criminalization leads to violence, and how current arguments about the legal treatment of sex work fall short. Offering powerful insights and crucial, often-overlooked information, this book provides new perspective on issues affecting communities around the world, inviting readers to further question the role of policing in society at large.

Policing Bodies (ISBN 9781503629745) will be available for purchase through retailers worldwide on December 21st, including and Amazon. The paperback retails for $28.00. Wholesale orders are available through Ingram, and pre-orders are available at


Sex work occupies a legally gray space in Johannesburg, South Africa, and police attitudes toward it are inconsistent and largely unregulated. This results in both room for negotiation that can benefit sex workers and extreme precarity, where the security police provide can be taken away at a moment’s notice. There is growing concern about the appropriate role for police, if any, in society. Many people around the world are examining policing in response to incidents of violence within marginalized communities. In recent decades, police have taken on additional responsibilities as administrators of social welfare and adopters of community policing. Yet, it remains an open debate whether policing and criminalization bring additional security and human rights protection, especially for historically stigmatized populations. Within this social context, Thusi examines the policing of sex work in Johannesburg, and whether a human rights approach to sex work should ever contribute to more policing, even if the policing is limited to sex workers’ clients. Challenging discourses about sexuality and gender that inform its regulation, Thusi exposes the limitations of dominant feminist arguments regarding the legal treatment of sex work. This in-depth, historically informed ethnography illustrates the tension between enforcing a country’s laws and protecting human rights.


India Thusi, Ph.D.

Professor of Law, Indiana University Bloomington Maurer School of Law

Senior Scientist, Kinsey Institute

Dr. Thusi’s research examines social hierarchies related to policing, race, gender, and sexual behavior. Her writing has been published (or is forthcoming) in the Harvard Law Review, NYU Law Review, Northwestern Law Review, and beyond.

Thusi earned a J.D. from Fordham University School of Law in New York, and Ph.D. in Social Anthropology and Law & Society from University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa. Thusi’s research is connected to legal experience with the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and recently, The Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communication lab dedicated to lasting policy and culture change. She has clerked for two federal judges, and for a justice of the Constitutional Court of South Africa.

Thusi received a W.E.B. Dubois Fellowship at Harvard University, the Andrew W. Mellon Doctoral Fellowship in the Humanities, was named a Next Generation African Scholar by the Social Science Research Council, and most recently was selected as a Fulbright U.S. Global Scholar for 2020-2022.

Jen McNabney
MindStir Media
+1 800-767-0531
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