[Marxism] Fwd: H-Net Review [H-Poland]: Petruccelli on Stauter-Halsted, 'The Devil's Chain: Prostitution and Social Control in Partitioned Poland'

Andrew Stewart hasc.warrior.stew at gmail.com
Fri Oct 19 08:53:44 MDT 2018

Best regards,
Andrew Stewart 

Begin forwarded message:

> From: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Date: October 19, 2018 at 6:15:47 AM EDT
> Subject: H-Net Review [H-Poland]:  Petruccelli on Stauter-Halsted, 'The Devil's Chain: Prostitution and Social Control in Partitioned Poland'
> Reply-To: H-Net Staff <revhelp at mail.h-net.msu.edu>
> Keely Stauter-Halsted.  The Devil's Chain: Prostitution and Social
> Control in Partitioned Poland.  Ithaca  Cornell University Press,
> 2015.  392 pp.  $39.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-8014-5419-6.
> Reviewed by David Petruccelli (Diplomatic Academy of Vienna)
> Published on H-Poland (October, 2018)
> Commissioned by Anna Muller
> This is a splendid book. Extensively researched, written with verve,
> and brimming with fresh insights and erudition, The Devil's Chain
> traces the emergence of prostitution onto the Polish national
> consciousness in the second half of the nineteenth century and the
> way that the interpretation and reinterpretation of the problem
> intersected with a burgeoning discourse about the nation. The book is
> admirably broad in its approach. It integrates recent findings in the
> historiography of prostitution from other, mostly Western European,
> contexts. This breadth of vision is necessary in order to pinpoint
> what is distinctive about the Polish case, which Keely
> Stauter-Halsted suggests has much to do with the fact that Poland's
> territories were divided up between the Russian, German, and Habsburg
> empires in the late eighteenth century. A Polish state only reemerged
> in 1918, near the end the story she tells. Stauter-Halsted argues
> convincingly that Polish thinkers projected deeply felt anxieties
> about this national division onto the question of prostitution. By
> drawing on diverse topics, such as domestic prostitution, human
> trafficking, mass migration, and the rise of a eugenic discourse, she
> crafts a compelling account of "Poland's difficult transition to
> modernity" (p. 2).
> The book's ten chapters are roughly divided into three sections. The
> first three chapters examine how prostitution came to be perceived as
> a problem in the Polish lands in the late nineteenth century.
> Stauter-Halsted opens with a chapter describing the fears about
> prostitution as typical of a "moral panic," a term she draws from the
> scholarship of Stanley Cohen. The prostitute served as a figure that
> could crystallize diverse anxieties of the rising bourgeoisie
> concerned about urbanization, modernization (or the lack of it), and
> the lasting political division of Poland. The second chapter turns to
> the realities of prostitution. By showing that prostitution was
> common in the rural as well as urban economies and that women easily
> moved into and out of prostitution, Stauter-Halsted demonstrates that
> the image of paid sex as an irreversible moral descent was largely a
> myth of an out of touch bourgeoisie. This rising urban middle class
> is at the center of the third chapter, which explores the extent to
> which prostitution penetrated the bourgeois home through domestic
> servants and the regulation system that was meant symbolically to
> delineate and segregate sex work.
> The next three chapters examine the problem of "white slavery," as
> sex trafficking was broadly called in the decades before the First
> World War. The white slavery panic swept much of the world in the
> last decades of the nineteenth century, crystallizing inchoate
> anxieties about social and economic change. In Polish society,
> broadly perceived as a principal source of trafficking victims, the
> discourse of white slavery tapped into insecurities related to the
> country's division between partitioning powers, belated
> modernization, and place on the civilization scale. The fifth chapter
> situates the white slave trade in a broader pattern of migration from
> the Polish lands in the late nineteenth century, an interpretive
> framework that complicates simplistic notions of agency and
> exploitation. The sixth chapter examines the central role of Jews as
> intermediaries and agents in mass migration out of Eastern Europe in
> the late nineteenth century, and shows how this solidified a myth of
> the Jew as the white slaver in Poland. This chapter complements
> recent studies of migration agents operating in Eastern Europe,
> notably by Tara Zahra (_The Great Departure: Mass Migration from
> Eastern Europe and the Making of the Free World _[2016]). By casting
> the white slaver as a Jew, Polish commentators avoided engaging with
> deeper social factors favoring migratory prostitution and contributed
> to the broader symbolic expulsion of Jews from the moral nation.
> The final four chapters examine the personalities and ideas
> motivating efforts to reform prostitution in late imperial Poland and
> the new Polish republic. In the seventh chapter, Stauter-Halsted
> shows how female activists mobilized in the early twentieth century
> against the problem of prostitution. These activists drove a shift in
> public understanding of prostitution, from an emphasis on the
> prostitute as an immoral actor to a focus on the iniquity of pimps
> and procurers who victimized these women. They constructed what
> Stauter-Halsted designates a "shadow state," building de facto social
> welfare institutions in an ostensibly apolitical field tolerated by
> the imperial powers. In doing so, they laid the groundwork for the
> rebirth of the Polish state. The eighth chapter examines the role of
> physicians, key props of the regulation system, and the ninth chapter
> addresses the rising influence of a eugenics discourse in the Polish
> lands in the years before the First World War.
> In her final chapter, Stauter-Halsted traces the legacies of these
> debates in the newly independent Polish state between 1919 and 1939.
> If discussions immediately before the war had prepared the ground for
> subsequent transformations, the devastations of war, ongoing economic
> turmoil, and renewed fears of venereal diseases provided the
> immediate impetus for the broad reconceptualization of the prostitute
> as a member of the nation rather than an outsider to it. And yet,
> despite their role instigating this shift, the feminist and
> eugenicist reformers failed to push through a shared abolitionist
> agenda. Stauter-Halsted lays the blame for this failure on the
> political dysfunction of the new state. This is one of the less
> convincing arguments of the book, confined as it is to what reads
> almost as a coda. An attempt to do justice to this complex picture
> would need to bring together the changing gender roles and shifting
> migratory patterns of the interwar years, the waning prospects for
> abolitionist activists in much of Europe in the 1930s, Poland's
> shifting relationship with the League of Nations, the reregulation of
> prostitution in Nazi Germany (viewed by parts of the Polish political
> class as inspiration until late in the decade), and the legacies of a
> Polish reform movement that evolved, as Stauter-Halsted so
> convincingly demonstrates, in opposition to state actors.
> While Stauter-Halsted's command of the scholarship on prostitution,
> trafficking, and related fields ranges across boundaries and periods,
> the book's focus is decidedly national. This is a reflection at one
> level of the book's subject matter. As Stauter-Halsted writes in the
> introduction, historical writing is invariably shaped by the
> preoccupations of the social actors studied, and many of her subjects
> clearly thought intensely about the future of the Polish nation. Yet
> at times, Stauter-Halsted also imposes this national identity on her
> subjects. For instance, she uses a study by "a Dr. Bonhoffer in
> Wrocław" to illustrate the integration into Polish medical
> discourses of Western European ideas about heredity and prostitution
> (p. 298). He makes an odd choice as a representative of Polish
> medical thought. The now-Polish city of Wrocław was then Breslau,
> one of the most important cities in the German Empire, and the doctor
> in question was most likely the German psychiatrist Karl Bonhoeffer,
> father of the pastor and later anti-Nazi dissident, Dietrich
> Bonhoeffer. Such missteps are rare--and indeed, elsewhere she refers
> to Bonhoffer as a "German psychiatrist" (p. 281)--but this example
> underscores the challenges facing a book on prostitution in Poland at
> a time when no Polish state existed.
> While Stauter-Halsted skillfully depicts the way that debates about
> gender, sexuality, and ethnicity blurred the moral boundaries of the
> nation, she seems to take for granted the existence of physical
> boundaries, though without maps it is not clear to the reader
> precisely where they lay. And by prioritizing the Polish national
> identity among the figures in her book, she risks reproducing the
> national lens that she seeks to problematize. Many of these experts
> were not only part of a Polish reading and writing class, but also
> those of the German, Russian, and Habsburg empires. Imperial networks
> of professionals and activists, which would have included some of
> these "Polish" figures, would have developed distinct approaches to
> the problems associated with prostitution in these years. Poland, as
> the only territory divided between these three great European land
> empires of the late ninteenth century, might provide new insights
> into the divergences and commonalities between different European
> imperialisms and their influence on national thought of subject
> groups.
> If anything, this criticism underscores the way that the book's
> shortcomings, as well as its strengths, ought to stimulate further
> research. As it is, _The Devil's Chain_ achieves a great deal,
> bringing together a wealth of material and themes into a compelling,
> persuasive, and novel account of Poland's development in the late
> nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This book should stand as a
> model for studies of other national contexts. It deserves a wide
> readership, both among experts in European history and among scholars
> of prostitution, migration, and sex trafficking.__
> Citation: David Petruccelli. Review of Stauter-Halsted, Keely, _The
> Devil's Chain: Prostitution and Social Control in Partitioned
> Poland_. H-Poland, H-Net Reviews. October, 2018.
> URL: https://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=50893
> This work is licensed under a Creative Commons
> Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States
> License.
> --

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