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Reflections on the interplay between procedural, relational and socio-political ethics in ethnographic research with West-African women working in prostitution in Brussels

Sophie Samyn (Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium)
Sarah Adeyinka (Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium)
Sami Zemni (Department of Conflict and Development Studies, University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium)
Ilse Derluyn (Department of Social Work and Social Pedagogy, University of Ghent, Ghent, Belgium)

Qualitative Research Journal

ISSN: 1443-9883

Article publication date: 26 June 2020

Issue publication date: 14 July 2020

151

Abstract

Purpose

This study aims to explore and discuss the ethical challenges that the authors encountered in the SWIPSER project, a study about the well-being of West-African women who work in the red-light district in Brussels.

Design/methodology/approach

The study was commissioned by the municipality of Schaerbeek and executed by a Nigerian–Belgian research team. Data were collected using a multi-method qualitative approach, predominantly through ethnographic fieldwork that consisted of detailed observations, informal interviews (with 38 participants), complemented by document analysis and stakeholder interviews.

Findings

The study presents the main ethical dilemmas in four themes: (1) representing diversity, i.e. how do we get access to all members of a migrant community that is inherently hierarchical?; (2) in the margin, i.e. how can we conduct research with undocumented migrants and what do we do when faced with violence and injustice?; (3) attraction and repulsion, i.e. what ethical consequences are involved when working in a multi-ethnic research team?; and (4) unveiling secrets, i.e. which ethical challenges are we faced with when presenting the results of research on vulnerable migrant communities?

Originality/value

This study goes beyond procedural research ethics and highlights the specific relational ethics (related to the relation between research(er) and participant) and the socio-political ethics (related to the relation between the research(er) and the socio-political context) involved in qualitative research with female migrants who work in prostitution.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The SWIPSER research project was funded by the municipality of Schaerbeek.

Citation

Samyn, S., Adeyinka, S., Zemni, S. and Derluyn, I. (2020), "Reflections on the interplay between procedural, relational and socio-political ethics in ethnographic research with West-African women working in prostitution in Brussels", Qualitative Research Journal, Vol. 20 No. 3, pp. 305-315. https://doi.org/10.1108/QRJ-02-2020-0009

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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