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Walk this way

The impact of mobile interviews on sensitive research with street-based sex workers

Tijdschrift Tijdschrift over Cultuur & Criminaliteit, Aflevering 3 2019
Trefwoorden mobile and walking methods, multisensory methods, ethnography, sex work, prostitution, ethical and sensitive research
Auteurs Dr Lucy Neville en Dr Erin Sanders-McDonagh
SamenvattingAuteursinformatie

    This article draws on a piece of ethnographic research carried out with outreach workers in London working with street-based sex workers (SBSWs). The aim of the research was to determine the efficacy of the services offered to this hard-to-reach client group. The charitable organization has a long history (20+ years) working with SBSWs in the Kings Cross area; we evaluated their drop-in and outreach services for this client group, many of whom have high-level needs due to substance misuse and mental health issues. We initially conducted semi-structured interviews with women at the drop-in services, but encountered a number of ethical and logistical issues that prompted us to consider alternative methodological approaches. This article explores our use of mobile interviews with SBSWs and the outreach team who encounter them, which we argue gives us unique insights into the realities and lived experiences of both women who work (and sometimes live) on the street and the outreach team members who engage with this hard-to-reach group. We argue that mobile interviews offer a highly effective way of conducting research with a vulnerable population, and enabled us to gain a unique perspective into best practice around effectively and ethically researching hard-to-reach groups. Critically, we maintain that these walking interviews gave detailed insights into the lives of SBSWs that would not have been possible using more traditional methods. We provide empirical data in this article from these walking interviews, including fieldnote excerpts, and consider the value of using mobile and innovative methods for criminological research with hard-to-reach populations.


Dr Lucy Neville
Dr Lucy Neville is Lecturer in Criminology, University of Leicester.

Dr Erin Sanders-McDonagh
Dr Erin Sanders-McDonagh is Senior Lecturer in Criminology, University of Kent.
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