Title

Hello Bordello: Modern Southern Women Contesting the Master Narrative of the Cathouse

Location

3031

Format Type

Paper

Format Type

Paper

Start Date

January 2016

End Date

January 2016

Abstract

Miss Laura’s Social Club is a restored Victorian brothel that serves as the official visitors’ center for Fort Smith, Arkansas. Fort Smith relies on its rich history as an Old West town to attract tourists. The researchers originally embarked on a case study of informal adult learning at Miss Laura’s—a unique cultural institution. As themes were identified in the data analysis, both researchers experienced strong negative reactions to the master narrative of prostitution in the Old West that emerged. Through writing about the study, the researchers explored the hegemonic master narrative that emerged and examined their own feminist perspectives on those themes; the study of the Victorian bordello has evolved into reflective self-portrait of the researchers as modern Southern women and feminists.

Themes that emerged from the study included the presentation of the madames as strong, empowered feminist figures, the positioning of the prostitutes as Cinderella figures who were transformed into respectable marriages with former clients, and the tension between Fort Smith’s conservative religious community standards and the housing of the city visitors’ center in a restored brothel. The researchers, using their lenses of community, personal experience, and feminism, contested the narrative told through Miss Laura’s exhibits and docents as representative only of the patriarchal, upper class, white experience. The researchers discussed the methodological choices and challenges involved in adapting the case study to a more explicitly critical approach.

Keywords: adult learning, cultural institutions, case study, social science portraiture, narrative, feminism

This document is currently not available here.

Share

COinS
 
Jan 16th, 2:15 PM Jan 16th, 2:35 PM

Hello Bordello: Modern Southern Women Contesting the Master Narrative of the Cathouse

3031

Miss Laura’s Social Club is a restored Victorian brothel that serves as the official visitors’ center for Fort Smith, Arkansas. Fort Smith relies on its rich history as an Old West town to attract tourists. The researchers originally embarked on a case study of informal adult learning at Miss Laura’s—a unique cultural institution. As themes were identified in the data analysis, both researchers experienced strong negative reactions to the master narrative of prostitution in the Old West that emerged. Through writing about the study, the researchers explored the hegemonic master narrative that emerged and examined their own feminist perspectives on those themes; the study of the Victorian bordello has evolved into reflective self-portrait of the researchers as modern Southern women and feminists.

Themes that emerged from the study included the presentation of the madames as strong, empowered feminist figures, the positioning of the prostitutes as Cinderella figures who were transformed into respectable marriages with former clients, and the tension between Fort Smith’s conservative religious community standards and the housing of the city visitors’ center in a restored brothel. The researchers, using their lenses of community, personal experience, and feminism, contested the narrative told through Miss Laura’s exhibits and docents as representative only of the patriarchal, upper class, white experience. The researchers discussed the methodological choices and challenges involved in adapting the case study to a more explicitly critical approach.

Keywords: adult learning, cultural institutions, case study, social science portraiture, narrative, feminism