Ethical Research with Sex Workers

Anthropological Approaches

  • Susan Dewey
  • Tiantian Zheng

Part of the SpringerBriefs in Anthropology book series (BRIEFSANTHRO)

Also part of the Springerbriefs in Anthropology and Ethics book sub series (AAE)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xi
  2. Susan Dewey, Tiantian Zheng
    Pages 1-22
  3. Susan Dewey, Tiantian Zheng
    Pages 23-37
  4. Susan Dewey, Tiantian Zheng
    Pages 39-55
  5. Susan Dewey, Tiantian Zheng
    Pages E1-E1
  6. Back Matter
    Pages 101-111

About this book


This volume is the result of the many years the authors have spent conducting ethnographic field research with sex workers, conversing with other researchers, and, perhaps most importantly, developing a deep sense of empathy for the sex worker participants in the research as well as the colleagues who carry out this work with the goal of advancing social justice. They have a combined total of twenty-five years’ experience carrying out research with sex workers, and this extensive period of time has given them ample opportunity to reflect upon the topic of ethics.

Sex work, defined as the exchange of sexual or sexualized intimacy for money or something of value, encompasses a wide range of legal and illegal behaviors that present researchers with key ethical challenges explored in the volume. These ethical challenges include:

·         Research methodology

·         Distinguishing research from activism

·         Navigating the politically and ideologically charged environments in which researchers must remain constantly attuned to the legal and public policy implications of their work

·         Possibilities for participatory sex work research processes

·         Strategies for incorporating participants in a variety of collaborative ways

Sex work presents a unique set of challenges that are not always well understood by those working outside of anthropology and disciplines closely related to it. This book serves an  important function by honestly and openly reviewing strategies for overcoming these ethical challenges with the end goal of producing path-breaking research that actively incorporates the perspectives of research participants on their own terms. Ever attuned to the reality that research on sex work remains a deeply political act, Ethical Research with Sex Workers: Anthropological Approaches aspires to begin a dialogue about the meanings and practices ascribed to ethics in a fraught environment. Drawing upon a review of published scholarly and activist work on the subject, as well as on interviews with researchers, social service providers, and sex workers themselves,  this volume is an unprecedented contribution to the literature that will engage researchers across a variety of disciplines, such as academics and researchers in anthropology, sociology, criminal justice, and public health, as well as activists and policymakers.



Federal Certificates of Confidendiality criminalization of sex work ethical issues in researching sex work separating research and activism violence in researching sex work

Authors and affiliations

  • Susan Dewey
    • 1
  • Tiantian Zheng
    • 2
  1. 1.Women and Gender StudiesUniversity of WyomingLaramieUSA
  2. 2.Sociology/AnthropologyState University of New York, CortlandCortlandUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Author(s) 2013
  • Publisher Name Springer, New York, NY
  • eBook Packages Behavioral Science
  • Print ISBN 978-1-4614-6491-4
  • Online ISBN 978-1-4614-6492-1
  • Series Print ISSN 2195-0806
  • Series Online ISSN 2195-0814
  • Buy this book on publisher's site