The Modern Career of the 'Oldest Profession' and the Social Embeddedness of Metaphors

Title:
The Modern Career of the 'Oldest Profession' and the Social Embeddedness of Metaphors
Authors:
Mattson, Greggor ( 0000-0001-8872-9637 )
Abstract:
Metaphors are elementary particles of meaningfulness, serving as cognitive resources for framing social problems or social movement narratives. This article presents a diachronic analysis of a metaphor synthesizing insights from cultural sociology and conceptual metaphor theory (CMT), an interdisciplinary neuroscientific program with robust empirical findings for how meanings change over time. I track the diffusion of ‘the most ancient’ metaphor for prostitution through publications on both sides of the Atlantic from its coinage by Rudyard Kipling in 1888. I explain the puzzle of its persistent polysemy by its embeddedness in three discursive communities: occupational professionals; social movements demanding state action against white slavery; and journalists, writers and cultured readers. These competing uses explain the paradox of how a metaphor about prostitution’s timelessness became a convention at the very movement that prostitution’s abolition seemed possible. While this single metaphor was used to express multiple opinions about prostitution’s inevitability, it shored up the ontological status of prostitution, a concept that contemporary researchers still struggle to unpack or displace. The diachronic analysis by which cultural categories are juxtaposed and reified is one of the insights of CMT for social cognition, with implications for sociological analysis of narratives, tropes and discourses.
Citation:
Mattson, Greggor. 2015. "The modern career of ‘the oldest profession’ and the social embeddedness of metaphors." American Journal of Cultural Sociology 3(2): 191-223.
Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan
DATE ISSUED:
2015
Department:
Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studies; Sociology
Type:
Article
PUBLISHED VERSION:
10.1057/ajcs.2015.4
PERMANENT LINK:
http://hdl.handle.net/11282/592747

Full metadata record

DC FieldValue Language
dc.contributor.authorMattson, Greggoren
dc.date.accessioned2016-01-04T13:13:29Zen
dc.date.available2016-01-04T13:13:29Zen
dc.date.issued2015en
dc.identifier.citationMattson, Greggor. 2015. "The modern career of ‘the oldest profession’ and the social embeddedness of metaphors." American Journal of Cultural Sociology 3(2): 191-223.en_US
dc.identifier.issn2049-7121en
dc.identifier.urihttp://hdl.handle.net/11282/592747en
dc.description.abstractMetaphors are elementary particles of meaningfulness, serving as cognitive resources for framing social problems or social movement narratives. This article presents a diachronic analysis of a metaphor synthesizing insights from cultural sociology and conceptual metaphor theory (CMT), an interdisciplinary neuroscientific program with robust empirical findings for how meanings change over time. I track the diffusion of ‘the most ancient’ metaphor for prostitution through publications on both sides of the Atlantic from its coinage by Rudyard Kipling in 1888. I explain the puzzle of its persistent polysemy by its embeddedness in three discursive communities: occupational professionals; social movements demanding state action against white slavery; and journalists, writers and cultured readers. These competing uses explain the paradox of how a metaphor about prostitution’s timelessness became a convention at the very movement that prostitution’s abolition seemed possible. While this single metaphor was used to express multiple opinions about prostitution’s inevitability, it shored up the ontological status of prostitution, a concept that contemporary researchers still struggle to unpack or displace. The diachronic analysis by which cultural categories are juxtaposed and reified is one of the insights of CMT for social cognition, with implications for sociological analysis of narratives, tropes and discourses.en
dc.language.isoen_USen
dc.publisherPalgrave Macmillanen
dc.identifier.doi10.1057/ajcs.2015.4en_US
dc.subject.departmentGender, Sexuality, and Feminist Studiesen_US
dc.subject.departmentSociologyen_US
dc.titleThe Modern Career of the 'Oldest Profession' and the Social Embeddedness of Metaphorsen_US
dc.typeArticleen
dc.identifier.journalAmerican Journal of Cultural Sociologyen
dc.identifier.volume3en_US
dc.identifier.issue2en_US
dc.identifier.startpage191en_US
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