8 Oct 2018 3:00pm - 4:00pm CRASSH Meeting Room, Alison Richard Building, Cambridge, CB3 9DT


Social researchers use many methods to study sex work and the effects of sex work policies: participant observation, interviews, comparative case studies, econometric analyses, and abstract mathematical models. Which of these methods offers the best way to understand sex work? Which of these methods offers the best way to know the causal effects of legalization on violence against women, trafficking, and men’s demand for women’s sexual labour? Why do feminists continue to disagree about sex work? Is there a tension between these quantitative and qualitative methods, either in their scientific or political aims, or in their philosophical or methodological presuppositions, or in their way of conceptualizing the issues? Or can these quantitative and qualitative methods complement each other, and offer researchers a valuable opportunity to learn across disciplinary boundaries?

This reading group offers researchers from a broad range of social science traditions (as well as from political philosophy and the philosophy of the social sciences) an opportunity to discuss these issues. We will be reading a wide range of scholarship on sex work, from economics to sociology, and from legal studies to policy studies, covering many methodologies and approaches. All are welcome!

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This week’s reading:

Lynn Sharon Chancer, ‘Prostitution, Feminist Theory, and Ambivalence: Notes from the Sociological Underground’, Social Text 37 (1993): 143.



This event is hosted by the ERC-funded project ‘Qualitative and Quantitative Social Science: A Unified Logic of Causal Inference?’. QUALITY is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (ERC grant agreement no. 715530)


October 8

​Lynn Sharon Chancer, ‘Prostitution, Feminist Theory, and Ambivalence: Notes from the Sociological Underground’, Social Text 37 (1993): 143-171.

October 15

Elizabeth Bernstein, ‘What’s Wrong with Prostitution? What’s Right with Sex Work? Comparing Markets in Female Sexual Labor’, Hastings Women’s Law Journal 10, 1 (1999): 91-117.

October 22

Jay Levy and Pye Jakobsson ‘Sweden’s abolitionist discourse and law: Effects on the dynamics of Swedish sex work and on the lives of Sweden’s sex workers’, Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, 5 (2014): 593-607.

October 29

Jane Souclar and Anna Carline, ‘A critical account of a “creeping neo-abolitionism”: Regulating prostitution in England and Wales’, Criminology and Criminal Justice 14, 5 (2014): 608-626.

November 5

Ronald Weitzer, ‘Researching Prostitution and Sex Trafficking Comparatively’, Sexuality Research and Social Policy 12, 2 (2015): 81-91.

Barbara Sullivan, ‘When (Some) Prostitution Is Legal: The Impact of Law Reform on Sex Work in Australia,’ Journal of Law and Society 37, 1 (2010): 85–104.

November 12

Seo-Young Cho, Axel Dreher and Eric Neumayer, ‘Does Legalized Prostitution Increase Human Trafficking?’ World Development 41 (2013): 67–82.

November 19

Ann Oakley, ‘Gender, Methodology and People’s Ways of Knowing: Some Problems with Feminism and the Paradigm Debate in Social Science,’ Sociology 32, 4 (1998): 707-731.

November 26

Samuel Lee and Petra Persson, ‘Violence and Entry in Prostitution Markets: Implications for Prostitution Law’, in The Oxford Handbook of the Economics of Prostitution, ed. Scott Cunningham and Manisha Shah (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 311-331.

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