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Field Education Office Professional Development Workshop

BSW Cording & MSW Hooding

Sunny Sinha, PhD

Making Change Happen

Sunny Sinha spent four years working in the developmental sector on issues related to vulnerable women and children in India. Prior to joining the doctoral program at USC, she worked for two years in a HIV prevention project in Kolkata, India, and was amazed by the life stories of the women she met. “I found, in most cases, these women were liberated souls. All of the research before narrowly focused on their sexual health, ignoring their overall health and well-being.  It gave me the idea for research that includes these women in their social context and would address their issues related to overall health and well-being. ” 

Sinha’s research as a PhD candidate took her back to India to answer the question: What do “flying” sex workers (i.e., women without a fixed place of operation) perceive as being risks in their lives? She spent seven months with a group of women, listening to their stories and understanding their lives. Her research uses cultural biography, a unique research approach that combines a person’s life history and ethnography to reach its conclusions.

Now an assistant professor at Marywood University in Pennsylvania, Sinha is continuing to conduct research that addresses issues related to women’s overall health and well-being. 


Research Interests

Sinha considers herself a feminist scholar, and her research and scholarship focuses upon a wide range of global issues, including HIV prevention, sex work, trafficking, migration, gender, race, class and sexuality.


Dissertation Title

‘Flying’ female sex workers in Kolkata, India: Using ‘cultural biography’ to understand HIV risk perceptions

Chair: Dr. Naomi Farber, Associate Professor, College of Social Work, University of South Carolina.


Publications and Presentations

Fram, M.S., Kim, J. & Sinha, S. (2011). "Early care and prekindergarten care as influences on school readiness" Journal of Family Issues, 20, 1-28

Presenter, “A feminist approach to “cultural biography” in understanding HIV risk perceptions” for the Feminist Scholarship track at the Council for Social Work Education ( CSWE) 2011 Annual Program Meeting (APM), Atlanta, Georgia, 27th -30th October, 2011. 

 “Risk perceptions of an HIV positive woman residing in a brothel of Kolkata, India: A Case Study" at the 6th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Prevention (IAS 2011), Rome, 17th -20th July 2011

 Presenter, “ Women in Non-Brothel based sex work speak: There is no future, what plans?” at the Unsettling Feminism(s) conference, Jane Addams College of Social Work, University of Illinois, Chicago, 22nd to 24th May, 2011 

Chair & Presenter, “Women in Non Brothel-Based Sex Work in Kolkata, India: Using “Cultural biography” to Understand Risk Perceptions,” for the session titled “Gendered Voices, Feminists, Sex Workers, and LGBT Communities” at the 38th Annual Conference on South Asia, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin, October 22nd –25th, 2009

Invited Panelist and Presenter, “Risks associated with being socially perceived as a "sex worker”: Non brothel-based sex workers in Central Kolkata, India” for the session titled “Home is where the heart is: food, shelter, and compassion in urban drop- in centers for sex worker’s” at the 69th Annual Meeting of Society for Applied Anthropology, Santa Fe, New Mexico, March 17th – 23rd, 2009 

Invited Speaker, “Lessons Learned About HIV Risk Perceptions of Women: A Case Study of Non-Brothel Based Sex Workers in Kolkata, India” for World AIDS Day at University of Mississippi, Oxford, December 1st,2011 


Other Activities or Awards 

Fahs-Beck Doctoral Dissertation Research and Experimentation Award (2009)

Ceny Walker Graduate Research Fellowship, Walker Institute of International Relations and Area Studies ( Spring, 2009) 

College of Social Work Travel Grant, University of South Carolina. 

Volunteer, Centre for Social Justice, Ahmedabad, India, April 2002 - Provided relief and rehabilitation services to families affected by the Godhra riots in Ahmedabad, India

Volunteer, Abhiyaan, Ahmedabad, India, February 2002 - Provided relief and rehabilitation services to earthquake-affected families and conducted damage assessment surveys within the earthquake-affected areas of Gujarat, India


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