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The phallus palace: Stripping spaces, desiring subjects and the fantasy of objects.


This dissertation explores four themes---space, subjectivity, feminism and desire, fantasy and power---as interrelated forces that mark the interactions between exotic dancers (women who take their clothes off for money) and their regular customers (men who frequent exotic dance clubs on a regular/continual basis to see the same dancer). I employed the theoretical paradigms of poststructuralism, cultural geography, critical feminist sociology, and psychoanalysis as analytic frameworks to deconstruct exotic dance clubs and the rich field of interactions therein. This research is guided by four years of ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, and intensive interviewing in two clubs in the New England area. I implemented narrative analysis, discursive analysis, and thematic analysis as tools through which to analyze the data. My research explores how space functions as a dynamic and performative structuring practice for the intense fields of interaction within the clubs: functioning as sense-making markers for both dancers and their regular customers. Moreover, I developed a theoretical model of subjectivity and how it is constituted within the clubs, specifically, how modalities of subjectivity are "leaky" for both customers and dancers, and how it is difficult to keep the "selves" they occupy in the clubs separate and distinct from their other "selves" outside the clubs. In addition, I promote a new feminist framework, one which accounts for the multiplicity of dancers' experiences as both exploitative and agentic---as well as many things in between--- problematizing the binarization of exploited victim and liberated woman as theorized in both radical and pro-sex feminist paradigms. Lastly, I examine how desire and fantasy exist in relation to gendered and capitalist vectors of hierarchical power, questioning the "giveness" of masculine subjectivity and the hegemony of patriarchal power relations.