"HIV Is Our Friend": Prostitution, Biopower, and the State in Postcolonial India Academic Article uri icon


  • 2014 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved. This article examines how the AIDS epidemic reorganized the Indian states relationship with women in prostitution. While sex workers previously faced legal regulations that criminalized and stigmatized them, they have now become important partners in the public health projects of the Indian state. As the HIV/AIDS epidemic became urgent, the Indian state and transnational HIV programs addressed sex workers as agents for inculcating behavioral change and providing systematic surveillance of the at-risk community. Using Michel Foucaults concept of biopowera modern states need to regulate and manage bodiesI show how these projects came into conflict with the earlier juridical regulations still in force. Such contradictions enabled sex workers to both push against the laws that were affecting their livelihoods and make claims on the Indian state to recognize them as a political community. These paradoxes and possibilities inform the incorporation and resistance of sex workers in state and transnational governance projects emerging in relation to HIV/AIDS. I argue not only that new subjectivities are being formed among Indian sex workers themselves by virtue of the new biopower projects of the state but also that the demands the epidemic has placed on the state result in internal contradictions for the Indian state that influence how the state responds to the sex workers claims of citizenship.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 1

author list (cited authors)

  • Lakkimsetti, C.

citation count

  • 14

complete list of authors

  • Lakkimsetti, Chaitanya

publication date

  • January 2014