Social Science Professor honoured for 20 years of studying sexuality

The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality (SSSS) honoured Social Science Professor Kamala Kempadoo with the 2017 Distinguished Scientific Achievement Award.  The SSSS presented the award to Kempadoo on November 12 in Atlanta, Georgia, during the society’s 60th anniversary celebration.

Kamala Kempadoo

The award recognizes Kempadoo for her numerous contributions to advancing the understanding of human sexual behaviour and promoting the study of sexuality.

“This award is an important acknowledgment of the impact of Professor Kempadoo’s work. She is widely regarded as pre-eminent in her field; her peers and the many graduate students who have come to York to work with her have known this for a long time. The opportunity to celebrate her contributions with this award is entirely well-deserved,” says Sandra Whitworth, Associate Dean, Graduate Studies & Research in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies.

Kempadoo has been publishing pioneering work for over two decades. Her most substantial works include the books Global Sex Workers: Rights, Resistance and Redefinition (1998), Sexing the Caribbean: Gender, Race and Sexual Labour (2004) and Trafficking and Prostitution Reconsidered: New Perspectives on Migration, Sex Work and Human Rights (2005, 2012).

“My work is read by scholars, researchers, activists and sex workers, as well as by those engaged with questions about human trafficking,” says Kempadoo. “Apart from the focus on sexuality, my work connects to the SSSS through its attention to intersectionality and interdisciplinarity, which the association also sees as central to its mandate.”

At the SSSS anniversary meeting, relocated from Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland after Hurricane Maria, Kempadoo was invited to give a plenary lecture titled “Researching Sexual Labour: From the Caribbean to ‘Foreign’.”

“I presented on the key ideas and questions in my research on sexual labour since the early 1990s, including studies of prostitution, sex work, transactional sex and sex tourism, as well as analyses of human trafficking, which includes ‘sex trafficking’,” says Kempadoo. “It foregrounded my research in the Caribbean and the ways sexual praxis — sexuality as action, interaction and lived experience — is constructed through racialized and economic relations of power. I wanted to show that through the study of sexual praxis of marginalized people, it is possible to chart ways to deconstruct and decolonize dominant ideas about human sexuality that continue to inform our understandings of prostitution and human trafficking.”

In the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, Kempadoo teaches Black, Caribbean, sexual labour and anti-trafficking studies in the graduate and undergraduate programs of Social & Political Thought; Gender, Feminist & Women’s Studies; International Development Studies; Work & Labour Studies; and Political Science.