Leiden University, Faculty of Humanities
The PROSPECT project is based on the assumption that prostitution is visible in the urban landscape. It argues that prostitution is visible not only through the display of women and men’s body but also through its influence on various aspects of the development of modern cities: on their economy, sanitary evolution, social composition, consumer and leisure identity, policing, spatial use of the urban environment (both outside on the streets and inside private houses), and even on the sounds and lighting of certain areas. Thanks to the Research Traineeship Programme from Leiden University, MA students Remko Prins and Emma Verweij have taken an active part in selecting and analyzing different types of sources, and this zone is the result of their work.
Starting with a close-up of prostitutes arrested for theft, we learn how these women were constantly surrounded and interacting, willingly or not, with new objects and techniques pertaining to the modern world: innovations in policing, in medicine or even in communication were all experienced by prostitutes! But they were not simple recipients of these changes: as it is revealed by the postcard shown in this zone, they took an active role in shaping these modern developments.
This project resonates with current issues in the Netherlands and especially in Amsterdam, with respect to the space and the visibility allowed to sex work. The current views held by the Amsterdam municipality on sex work suggest that prostitution has had a visible and quantifiable impact on the urban environment only since recent years. This project aims to show that the people involved in sex work have actively participated in the shaping of contemporary Amsterdam.