Valentini Sampethai

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Panteion U.

Grant number

Gr. 10243

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Sampethai, Valentini (Panteion U.) "'Playing the whore' and the struggle for life: labour and subjectivity among sex workers in Athens"

Inspired by emic conceptualizations of sex work as purposeful struggle, this study looks at precarious labour in the Athenian sex industry to address wider questions of work among cis and trans women. It explores sex-workers’ multiple strategies in navigating overlapping forms of devaluation and illegalization by the Greek state, and pays attention to how material needs intersect with concerns for state recognition. It focuses on Cuban LGBT asylum seekers, Eastern European migrants, and locals active in street sex economies. These groups share working practices and spaces, and testify to a continuum of illegalization through migration/asylum, labour/unemployment policy, and involvement in the sex industry itself. Their labour processes incorporate different types of sex work, which constitute parts of a set of livelihood strategies that are not bound to one specific workplace, employment relation, or worker identity. This research is therefore about sex work, but also gendered labour processes and “forms of living” (Millar 2018). Sex work is examined alongside other income-generating activities and sexual practices, looking at sex-workers’ cost-benefit analyses as they navigate precarity within local labour markets. Ultimately, sex work emerges not as an identity, but as a practice that is constantly negotiated within their struggles to make a life.


Sampethai, Valentini. 2022. Workers, Migrants, and Queers: The political economy of community among illegalised sex workers in Athens’, Anti-Trafficking Review, issue 19, pp. 28-46,