Ran Tao

Using visual ethnography to address sexuality, HIV and AIDS, and Chinese youth

Commencement: September. 2005; Completion, 2009.

Worldwide, young people are the most vulnerable population to the HIV infection. In China, college students have been identified as the latest addition to the AIDS high-risk group due to their practices of unsafe heterosexual intercourse. Effective intervention work to protect these young college students needs to be based on a better understanding of the socio-cultural dimensions of the transmission of HIV/STIs (sexually transmitted infections) among them, and on an adequate conceptualization of youth sexuality in terms that go beyond the bio-medically-oriented and positivist explanations. This dissertation is a qualitative study of the sexuality and the embodied experiences of college students in China in relation to HIV and AIDS that uses visual-based participatory action research methodologies. In 2007, a photovoice project was initiated with 25 first-year students (10 male and 15 female), 18-19 years of age, in a university located in an urban area of China. Photovoice blends photography, research, education, and action not only as a strategy for collecting data for this qualitative exploration but also as a means of intervention and education by engaging the study participants in social issues related to HIV and AIDS, sex, and sexuality. Other qualitative methods such as in-depth qualitative interviews, focus groups, and participant observation also were used to provide triangulation, and thus, to obtain a complex picture of the sexuality and bodily experiences of college students in China. Data from the study suggest that young Chinese students hold somewhat contradictory attitudes toward traditional Chinese and Western sexual discourses, and therefore experience a state of tension when trying to decide whether to embrace Western ideas of sexual liberalism or to comply with traditional Chinese sexual norms, and whether to adhere to traditional sexual morals or attempt sexual liberation.

Thesis Ph.D. Using visual ethnography to address sexuality, HIV and AIDS, and Chinese youth 

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