Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitution in Era of AIDS

Claire E. Sterk’s article “Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitution in Era of AIDS” published by Social change Press in 2000 takes into account the patterns and procedures that a fieldwork tales into account during field research work. She provides some useful insights and learnt lessons during her fieldwork with prostitutes to provide a close and intimate account of their lives and psychological being in their own words. Her learnings are substantiated with proper examples.  Unlike students expectations who think of fieldwork as a leisure time activity as some serene place, Sterk manifests some of the pains associated with fieldwork and bring into light some important patterns and procedures that fieldwork must consider while taking on a field work.

            Sterk establishes her point of view about importance of fieldwork about prostitution by provoking the essential human quality of compassion. She does not by describing that prostitutes are not alien and are endowed with fine human qualities. Their habitual formations and mental qualities are like other ordinary humans.

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She emphasizes this theme by highlighting the poem written by a prostitute. Whole purpose of this initial exercise is to create consideration among readers about the lives and activities of prostitutes. Her ascriptions of these qualities to prostitutes and information provided support his arguments.

I like the methodology that she adopted to get an insight into the lives of prostitutes.  Furthermore, her objective to provide an internal point of view and personal account and experiences of prostitutes in their own word is highly approving as it aims at making their lives comprehensible from their viewpoint.

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 Additionally, writer efforts to cast away her own past experiences about prostitute live, removing her pre-conceived notion and biases are appreciative as it not only facilitate the working of Sterk among prostitutes but enabled her to provide an objective account of their lives and activities.

As Chadwick et al. illustrates that “there are also reactive effects which may be described as errors from the investigators…” (p.38) but Sterk keeps herself away from these reactive errors. She kept her ownself away from interfering in the research work and her findings. Sometimes she underwent serious ethical turmoil but did not interfered in the lives of her subjects and her observations. It is really beneficial for a young fieldworker to inculcate these qualities in him to become a better researcher.

In addition to these excellent patterns that she adopted in her field work, there are any flaws. For example she describes about “poor working conditions” and prostitutes strategies to cope with these low working conditions but she does not provide a description of these working conditions and does elaborate how and why they are poor. (p.17) She does not substantiate her finding with details and/or comparative analysis of working conditions elsewhere. But what seems obvious is that at this stage, her aims is to underline the research principles and patterns to gain entry and acceptance into the prostitutes’ world and to draw attention toward pains she took rather than providing details about their life. This is also suggested by the sub-titles of the article “Fieldwork on Prostitution…” that highlight the fieldwork and associated activities.

She validates her findings and observation by providing first hand experiences and examples. For example, she says that gaining access to prostitution world is difficult and she illustrates this by providing her own account of the pains and problem she had. She located first hand information about the localities of these prostitutes and did not rely on secondary information sources.

Her methodology to be recognized by prostitutes is also practical as she does not build rapport at the very initial stages and started extracting information but gained confidence of the prostitutes first by being observable and recognized on regular basis. All these findings are authenticated by example and supporting evidences. An important thing is the constant learning experiences of the fieldworker. She did not rely on gatekeepers and key respondents only. She has comprehensively located right reason for not relying on gatekeepers and key informers only. (p.18)

She provides a comprehensive account of her findings in simple and uncomplicated way. She builds her thesis like a proper plot of story and garnish it with example. She use simple words and sentence structure to convey the complicated feelings and psychological insights into the lies of the prostitutes. She builds a thesis under a sub-headings and elaborates that thesis with that headline.

For example “Locating Prostitutes and Gaining Entree” and “Developing Relationships and Trusts” are appropriate subtitle and contents under these headings fully support the titles. This helps really in the overall organization of the topic and facilitates the readers.  But in “Leaving the field” shows a little deviation from the main theme as well from the sub-titles as writer seems sentimental and subjective in her approach.

Overall, Sterk has provided in-depth information and understanding about the strategies that field workers adopts and pains that he/she is afflicted with when venturing into an intricate and difficult fieldwork as research of prostitutes.

She lived their lives to understand them and had built positive and reciprocal relationship with them. “Fieldwork is obtrusive” (Chadwick et all. P. 38) but Sterk remained unobtrusive that that is the hallmark of her study. Her approach is logical as she clearly convey her findings with the help of supporting arguments and evidences. She does not entangle herself in sociological intricacies of fieldwork and communicate her findings about fieldwork in a simple way.

Works Cited

Chadwick, B. Bahr, H. & Albrecht, S. Social Science Research Methods. New Jersey: Prentice-

            Hall, Inc. 1984.

Sterk, Claire E. Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitution in the Era of AIDS. Social

            Change Press, 2000.


Updated: Feb 22, 2021
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Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitution in Era of AIDS. (2017, Mar 02). Retrieved from

Tricking and Tripping: Fieldwork on Prostitution in Era of AIDS essay
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