The Latin American Studies Research series is held each year at Elon to explore critical issues concerning the history, culture, communities, politics and art of Latin America from different disciplines and approaches.
The Elon University Latin American Studies Interdisciplinary Minor Program will hold its Fall 2021 Research Series Keynote Conference hosted by Assistant Professor of Anthropology Leyla Savloff.
This year, the conference, titled “Putas y Discas: Sex Work Activism and Disability Justice in Argentina,” will take place on Monday, Nov. 1 at 5:30 p.m. at the Global Commons Media Room 103. It is open and free to students, faculty and staff.
The Latin American Studies Research series is held each year at Elon to explore critical issues concerning the history, culture, communities, politics and art of Latin America from different disciplines and approaches. It has provided the opportunity to discuss a wide range of topics that affect the continent, with renowned scholars advocating to study and research the region’s issues.
The research series has continuously fostered a space to critically reflect on Latin America’s global position and the internal subjects that make the region a particular geopolitical area in the world. It has been committed to endorsing civic engagement on Latin American social, racial and gender matters and promotes diversity and inclusion of other cultures and identities at Elon. It has been a key yearly occasion to explore the interculturality of a diverse and unique area, while simultaneously reflecting on past and contemporary violent social and political conflicts that have been faced in the region.
The event will be a significant opportunity to follow that line of discussions by introducing the innovative and pioneering perspective of Savloff, who recently joined Elon’s Department of Sociology and Anthropology in 2020.
The conference will focus on “Putas y Discas,” an Instagram Live event where two activists conversed about how sex work and disability intersect in Buenos Aires, Argentina.
“Putas” is a reclaimed term that sex workers often use to identify their labor and political identities. “Discas” refers to the political identity of organized disabled people and people with functional diversity. Through an analysis of this virtual public conversation, Savloff will consider how the lens of disability justice challenges constrictive notions of sexuality.
Drawing on the concept of “access intimacy’ developed by Mia Mingus, Savloff argues that “Putas y Discas” offers an instance where non-disabled people are called upon to disrupt the dominance of ableism, not by running away from disability but by moving towards it. As organized sex workers and disability activists imagined new worlds and advocated for sexual recognition, they also challenged institutional violence for its abuses and neglects, displaying the vitality of political organizations and the possibilities for digital activism.
By building networks of interdependence, sex work activists and disability justice activists ensure sex life becomes a part of public discourse in ways that undoes normative constructions of sex.
Savloff has an important long trajectory of community service and ethnographic work with criminalized women in Argentina. Her research has focused on gender disparities and sexual minorities. Among other areas, she investigates how feminist collectives in Latin America contest policing techniques and instead promote community-based initiatives to dismantle institutional violence.
In her doctoral dissertation, “Entre Nosotres: The Social and Political Spheres of Women Against Prisons,” Savloff examines enactments of freedom and creative responses to the criminal justice system in Argentina by women organized in a collective that promotes self-determination and empowers networks of interdependence. She has developed research on critical prison studies, gender and sexualities, anthropology of visual media and social movements in Latin America.
Her concern is how women organize collectively to contest gender-based oppressions and promote feminist approaches on issues pertaining to policing and surveillance, labor practices, family and care.