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The Michael Shermer Show

A series of conversations between Dr. Michael Shermer and leading scientists, philosophers, historians, scholars, writers and thinkers about the most important issues of our time.

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EPISODE # 309

India Thusi on Sex Work, Critical Race Theory, and Moral Progress

Policing Bodies: Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg (book cover)

Shermer and Thusi discuss: how she gained access to police and sex workers in Johannesburg • what it was like patrolling brothels in Johannesburg • what sex work is, exactly (street-based, brothel-based, escort services, private, dance hall, and hotel sex work) • why sex workers are mostly women and patrons mostly men • why sex work is illegal in many places and whether it should be legal and regulated like any other trade • the liminal nature of sex work (mostly illegal, mostly goes on anyway, difficult to police) • Critical Race Theory • racism and antiracism • President Barack Obama • her response to Shelby Steele and Jason Hill’s “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” philosophy • why we are not living in a post-racial society (yet) and why race matters (still).

India Thusi is a Professor of Law at the Indiana University Maurer School of Law with a joint appointment at the Kinsey Institute. Her research examines racial and sexual hierarchies as they relate to policing, race, and gender. Her articles and essays have been published or are forthcoming in the Harvard Law Review, NYU Law Review, Northwestern Law Review (twice), Georgetown Law Journal, Cornell Law Review Online, amongst others. She has worked at the American Civil Liberties Union, Human Rights Watch, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and — most recently — The Opportunity Agenda, a social justice communication lab that collaborates to effect lasting policy and culture change. She served as a federal law clerk to two social justice giants: the Honorable Robert L. Carter, who sat on the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and was the lead counsel for the NAACP in Brown v. Board of Education; and the Honorable Damon J. Keith, who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and is lauded for his prominent civil rights jurisprudence. She also clerked for Justice van der Westhuizen at the Constitutional Court of South Africa, the country’s highest court. She was recognized as a Top 40 Rising Young Lawyer by the American Bar Association in 2019. Her book is Policing Bodies: Law, Sex Work, and Desire in Johannesburg.

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This episode is sponsored by Wondrium:

Wondrium (sponsor)

This episode was released on December 6, 2022.

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