Sexual Politics in the Field: Gendered Research Spaces in Tourism Geographies
Sexual violence and harassment in field research is an uncomfortable and under-discussed phenomenon in the social sciences. Tourism geographies, being cross-cultural, often require solo fieldwork that exposes one’s gender in geographically remote locations. There is a pressing need to normalise the discussion of sexual politics in the field, specifically concerning occurrences of gender-associated risks in fieldwork and report on the unexpected physical and mental health risks for women researchers. This study takes a feminist theoretical lens to unpack the hidden dimensions of women engaged in ‘voluntary’ risk taking by conducting field research in male-dominated research environments. Taking an exploratory approach within an interpretivist paradigm, this study is based on the fieldwork experiences of 13 women from diverse cultural and academic backgrounds with the participants sharing their subjective realities of researching in tourism geographies. A thematic analysis revealed the two key themes of risk/perceived vulnerabilities and wellbeing/care in the field as paramount for field research spaces for women, along with 11 subthemes. Findings reaffirmed the political nature of tourism geographies fieldwork and the need to challenge sexual politics and patriarchal domination, including for LGBTQ researchers. Further, the results highlighted the intersectionality of race and gender of women’s experiences of sexual violence and other risks in the field. Thus, the findings suggest an urgent need to provide an imperative for fieldworker safety, wellbeing considerations, and alternative ways of researching.