Mapping Trends: Power imbalances and the circulation of information on sex work

Laura Murray, Elsa Oliveira and Debolina Dutta (2018), Mapping Trends: Power Imbalances and the Circulation of Information on Sex Work, in SexPolitics: Trends & Tensions in the 21st Century – Critical Issues. [OPEN ACCESS]

In this article, we map global and regional trends in information produced about sex work in an effort to shed light on these imbalances. Based in the global South, we are researchers and activists who work and act politically from a sex worker rights perspective. We believe that it is important to step back and look critically at the field in which we all are engaged. In doing so, we highlight the importance of equalising, or at the very least, reducing the research/activist/policy-making divides and making research practices more accountable to its subjects. Drawing on specific examples from the respective countries where we, the authors, live and work, we also highlight the kinds of important work being done by sex worker activists across the globe. Although our findings do not include all of the material available, we seek to offer an overview of what is being produced about sex work, identify trends in the power imbalances inherent in contemporary sex work research, and suggest possible paths forward to reduce the disparities between sex workers’ lived experiences and policies made about them.

About Elsa Oliveira

Elsa Oliveira is a researcher and PhD student at the African Centre for Migration and Society.

Since 2010, Elsa has been involved in a range of research projects that makes use of participatory visual and narrative methods. These projects aim to engage in research that explores the lived experiences of multiple migrant groups, with a specific focus on issues of sexuality and migration.

Elsa was one of two ACMS staff that launched the MoVE (methods.visual.explore) project. She is interested in exploring the ways in which research outputs can be disseminated into wider public forums and in the ways in which research can support social justice movements.

As part of maHp, Elsa will assist in coordinating visual research projects and undertaking research exploring visual methodologies for investigating migration and health in southern Africa.