Emily Sterk is a Ph.D. candidate in Penn State's Department of Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. Her research focuses on contemporary cultural and literary representations of sex tourism and sex workers’ role in the coastal tourism economies of the American tropics. She argues that sex workers serve as reproductive laborers that sustain these coastal economies, while also playing a key role in the intellectual imagination of their respective nations and their positions in the global marketplace. The keywords that organize her publications and course are: feminism, sex and sexuality, anti-colonialism, critical race studies, and trans studies. Emily’s work has appeared in Translation Review, Cincinnati Romance Review and Voces del Caribe.
Dissertation: “(S)extractivism in the American Tropics: Sex Workers as Reproductive Laborers of National Identities, Sex Tourism, and the Global Marketplace”
Project Description: Emily’s dissertation studies a series of cultural and literary representations of sex tourism and sex workers’ role in the coastal tourism economies of Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico. Interdisciplinary in nature, her project examines the intersections between sex work and sociopolitical issues such as gender equality, LGBTQIA+ rights, racism, and (neo)colonialism within the context of the American tropics. Through an analysis of literature, films, and performances that center around sex workers and sex clients, Emily argues that the sex worker not only serves as a reproductive laborer that sustains the national economy, but also plays a key role in the intellectual imagination of the nation and its position in the global marketplace. In her archive, she pays special attention to the particularities of each context and their cultural productions to examine how depictions of the everyday lived experiences of sex workers intersect with the ways in which their bodies are sexualized and commodified within their national identities and economies, as well as the global sphere’s perceptions of the American tropics.