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Seen and Known: Prostitutes in the Cityscape of Late-Sixteenth-Century Rome

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Prostitutes exploited the theatrical potential of the street, and provide an especially telling example of human beings as icons and markers of physical space. These women's lives, despite marginalization, speak to ideological and behavioural concerns central to their culture. Various documents drawn from the criminal courts and church administration reveal the uneasy but complex integration of prostitutes into the social fabric of the city, and their impact upon it. Throughout the late 16th century, the situation of Rome's prostitutes and especially their relation to the urban landscape underwent contest and adaptation. They offended the sensibilities of Counter-Reformation popes, but remained resilient in the face of campaigns to drive them off the street; their continued presence corresponded to an intricate, but ambiguous, engagement in the social networks of daily life.

Keywords: Italy; Prostitutes; Rome; Social structures; Women

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/1477-4658.00278

Publication date: September 1, 1998

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