Researching Trafficked Women: On Institutional Resistance and the Limits to Feminist Reflexivity
Qualitative Inquiry, Vol. 17, p. 769, 2011
Posted: 19 Nov 2011
Date Written: November 1, 2011
This article exposes methodological barriers we encountered in a small research project on women trafficked for the purpose of sexual exploitation and our attempts, drawing on feminist and emergent methods, to resolve them. It critically assesses the role of institutional gatekeepers and the practical challenges faced in obtaining data directly from trafficking victims. Such difficulties, it suggests, spring at least in part from lingering disagreements within the feminist academic, legal, and advocacy communities regarding the nature, extent and definition of trafficking. They also reveal concerns from policy makers and practitioners over the relevance and utility of academic research. While feminist researchers have focused on building trust with vulnerable research participants, there has been far less discussion about how to persuade institutional elites to cooperate. Our experiences in this project, we suggest, reveal limitations in the emphasis on reflexivity in feminist methods, and point to the need for more strategic engagement with policy-makers about the utility of academic research in general.
Keywords: Trafficking, Prostitution, Victims, Methodology, Empirical Research
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