I began conducting early exploratory research in the field in the summer of 2014 and plan to continue to collect data in Detroit through summer of 2017.

My early research questions looked something like this: What does a gendered informal economy in an urban area, as Detroit, look like?  How does gendered space shape the networks that support informal work? How is gendered space created and sustained & how does it affect women’s economic survival and opportunity? Are gendered networks created by gendered spaces empowering or constraining or both (Gilbert, 1998)?

Over time and throughout this qualitative research process, my focus on only a segment of informal work has somewhat waned as I began to observe both many men and women working informally and formally in many different sectors of work including: food preparation, jewelry and women’s apparel design, marketing and sales; estate and auction work; graphic design work; residential and commercial cleaning; and, so on. I am interested in the spaces, public and private, men and women use and have access to and those they do not. I am interested in the social networks that are created and maintained and the ways in which these networks differ for different groups of women across the neighborhood. I am interested in the types of capital (social, cultural, economic) available, again, to different groups of women.

During the course of this research, I have had the opportunity to meet many dynamic men and women. They have taken time to meet with me, share stories, experiences, and personal and work histories with me. Me, a virtual stranger. For this, I am grateful. They have invited me into their homes, into their lives. As I continue this project, the ways in which I have been touched and am changed by this work, are countless.