Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Sampling and sex trading: Lessons on research design from the street

Sex trading is a hot topic right now.  There is a lot we don’t know AND in worrying ways a lot we think we know, but may not actually understand.  I believe participatory and action research may help clear some of the fog.

In my article in the Action Research Journal I explore ways that I learned directly from people who trade sex by conducting participatory action research.  Not surprisingly, I found reality to be far more complex and contradictory than our media representations and our often too-easy moral stances might suggest.  To understand the systems, experiences and meanings around sex trading I think we ought to put the multifaceted experiences of real people at the center. 

But which “real” people?  Whose experiences? 

As researchers and activists I think it is critical to be clear about location (geographic, context, rootedness).  I focus on sex trading in one neighborhood; a place of strength and beauty that is also challenged by generational poverty, violence and disinvestment.  Participatory and action research allowed me to conduct research with people who trade sex and thus to develop deep and nuanced understandings that helped build a foundation for social action.  But, this wasn’t a one-sized fits all solution factory.  It’s a grounded approach rooted in a unity of theory and practice; and also rooted in radical acts of listening and connection. 
I invite you to read my article and I would welcome your thoughts, comments and conversation.

Lauren Martin 

You can access this article online FREE for 30 days by following this link.

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