Academic journal article Human Organization

The Nashville John School: Affective Governance and the Reintegrative Shaming Approach

Academic journal article Human Organization

The Nashville John School: Affective Governance and the Reintegrative Shaming Approach

Article excerpt

Historically, state actors, NGOs, and law enforcement agencies have conceptualized the sex industry through a prevailing "market" lens, thus contextualizing the dynamics of intimacy within the framework of "supply" and "demand." Traditionally, efforts to curtail commercial sex have focused on penalizing sexual service providers. Through the rigorous advocacy of neo-abolitionists, however, attention has turned to approaches that decrease the demand for sexual services. The harshest measures seek to deter sexual commerce through rituals aimed at publicly shaming convicted prostitution patrons. Some of these tactics entail posting the pictures of patrons, known as "johns," in the local newspaper or on billboard signs; chaiging exorbitant fines for prostitution-related offenses; confiscating property utilized to purchase prostitution (i.e., cars and computers); and sending letters home to the spouses or intimate partners of convicted patrons, warning them of the potential risks ofSTDs/HIV contraction (Neumeister 2012). A somewhat softer approach entails a diversion program offered to those arrested for attempting to purchase sexual services. While only offered in select states or provinces, these programs have become increasingly popular as a method for curtailing "the demand." Through this program, sex consumers are not simply criminalized; they are also reeducated and reintegrated into society. For this reason, prostitution offender diversion programs are casually referred to as "john schools."

Drawing upon these contemporary efforts to eradicate prostitution, this ethnography engages in a tripartite exploration of the Nashville John School (NJS) program in Nashville, Tennessee, a one-day, state-sponsored diversion program offered to first-time prostitution patrons in Davidson County. This program includes up to six different informational presentations designed to discourage participants from further sex industry engagement. Through private interviews and participant observation in the NJS program, 1 explore the strategies associated with reintegrative shaming and/or stigmatization that program presenters employ. In so doing, 1 highlight shame inducement and shame management as techniques of affective governance, whereby "ideologies or social forces tap into personal feelings with the possible consequence that those ideologies or forces convict or interpellate subjects effectively" (Yang 2015:94).

Secondly, I explore how participants emotionally respond to these affective appeals. Through observations of participant body language, the questions posed to presenters, and the specific reactions participants articulated during one-on-one interviews, I analyze the extent to which participants expressed shame or guilt about their own sexual behavior, rejection or acceptance of wrongdoing, hostility or respect for law enforcement agents and legal personnel, and/or empathy for those adversely impacted by their criminal involvement. Participant responses reveal the capacity for reintegrative shaming to induce the emotions associated with behavior modification.

Lastly, in light of the affective mode of discipline NJS employs, 1 consider what kind of subjects the program, and more importantly the state, attempts to cultivate. How do program presenters construct program participants? What does the physical space of the program imply regarding morality and sexuality? What then constitutes an ideal subject with regards to masculinity, sexuality, and sexual behavior? More broadly, what constitutes an ideal population? Ultimately, I argue that the reintegrative shaming technique attempts to form heteronormative subjects whose sexual activity is confined to (Christian) marriage. As such, it is important to consider what kind of masculinity the state defines as normative and what is at stake for those who cannot successfully embody it.

Affective Governance

This ethnography assumes a Foucauldian approach, examining reintegrative shaming as a technique of govemmentality. …

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