Framing the Windows of Prostitution: Unfolding Histories in Amsterdam’s Redesign of Its Famous Red-Light District

Sarah Fijen, Samira van Bohemen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

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This research is about the power of documents as recorders of history and preservers of institutional memory. Specifically, the study examines Project 1012, a municipal reform project in Amsterdam’s famous Red-Light District.

We performed a critical discourse analysis on 10 policy briefs leading up to and following the implementation of Project 1012 between 2007 and 2020. Results: Our study reveals that the documents actively evoke certain narratives about sex work, its historical connections to the city, and its social problems to support the reduction of the industry. The documents omit other information about the history and origins of the problems experienced in Amsterdam’s Red-Light District, including policymakers’ own roles in the creation of these issues.

The research concludes that policy documents have deontic powers and can be considered “folded objects” that consistently present certain narratives as truthful by omitting or downplaying the historical context of social issues. By folding these narratives in themselves, they have the power to shape the futures of the city and its citizens, executing a myriad of changes that have significantly impacted the lives and work conditions of local sex workers.

Policy Implications:
This research highlights the importance of being aware of the power and potential biases inherent in policy documents. Policymakers should strive to create policies that are based on accurate and comprehensive information and consider the voices of marginalized groups, such as sex workers, who are disproportionately affected by the policies.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalSexuality Research and Social Policy
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Aug 2023

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Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

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