Review Essay: Qualitative Research on Prostitution in the Early '80s' Red-light Districts of Vienna


  • Ralf Ottermann Agentur für Praxissoziologie Frankfurt am Main



free field research, participant observation, ero-epic conversation/free interview, marginal/subculture, prostitutes/pimps/clients, types, empirical grounded theory


This review essay is about the merits and shortcomings of Roland GIRTLER's qualitative field research on prostitution in the early '80s' red-light districts of Vienna. GIRTLER is particularly interested in sub-cultural norms, values, ideas and symbols as well as (deviant) behavior patterns of prostitutes, pimps and clients. He is also interested in what makes people become prostitutes, pimps or clients and in the problems they have such as being confronted with extraordinary social control (moralization, stigmatization, registration, criminalization). GIRTLER's main methods of field research are participant observation and unconstrained conversations (GIRTLER's "ero-epic dialogues") with prostitutes and pimps. To this end, initial contacts with pimps and prostitutes are established by a criminal acquaintance of GIRTLER, leading to a "snowballing" of contacts. GIRTLER's way of sampling and his methods of analyses are, however, somewhat hazy and vague. In contrast to prostitutes and pimps, clients are neither interviewed by GIRTLER nor informed of being observed by him for the purpose of research. Through this special treatment of the clients, GIRTLER fails to meet even his own methodological and ethical demands. Moreover, his empirical grounded typologies and theory of prostitution are, in part, not verifiable and occasionally lack plausibility. Some of GIRTLER's practices do not, therefore, meet today's state-of-the-art standards for qualitative research. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0502196


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Author Biography

Ralf Ottermann, Agentur für Praxissoziologie Frankfurt am Main

Ralf OTTERMANN, Dr. phil., M.A. Studium der Soziologie, Psychologie und Philosophie. Berufstätigkeiten: Soziologische Lehre und Forschung, Sozialwissenschaftliche Beratung, Psychosoziale und Sozialpädagogische Betreuung. Arbeitsschwerpunkte: Soziale Probleme, Abweichendes Verhalten und Soziale Kontrolle. In FQS findet sich eine weitere Besprechung von Ralf OTTERMANN zu: "Kriminalsoziologie" (



How to Cite

Ottermann, R. (2005). Review Essay: Qualitative Research on Prostitution in the Early ’80s’ Red-light Districts of Vienna. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 6(2).