"The personal is political science": Epistemological and Methodological Issues in Feminist Social Science Research on Prostitution
Author(s)St. Denny, Emily
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AbstractUnlike academic and policy discussions over enduring and pervasive social problems like poverty or ill health, which focus on how they should be tackled, debates concerning individuals in prostitution are divided over how, and to what extent, prostitution even is a problem. This has led to apparently intractable disagreement over the legitimate representation of a subject at the juncture between vulnerable invisibility and liberated agency. Concretely, this raises a paradox whereby feminist researchers, seeking to facilitate emancipation through the illumination of the experiences of a stigmatised and invisible subject, must carefully give voice to the voiceless without speaking on their behalf. Drawing on contemporary feminist scholarship on prostitution, this essay argues that, to begin resolving this paradox, the field must explicitly engage with the underlying epistemological and methodological implications of conducting emancipatory social science research on prostitution. The essay concludes that, in order to contribute meaningfully to the feminist research agenda on prostitution, practitioners must acknowledge the inherently political nature of emancipation, as the expression of choice and power.