Struggles for recognition: the development of HIV/AIDS curricula in schools of social work in Taiwan

Doctoral Studies Completed Theses - 2009 Archive

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Dau-Chuan Chung

PhD thesis, conferred 2009

In Taiwan schools of social work, the ongoing debate about whether to provide specific HIV/AIDS courses or integrate HIV/AIDS issues into the curriculum has yet to produce an argument that draws on the understandings of curriculum development in social work. This project not only explores why this is the case but also aims to resolve the debate. This research is based on two methodologies: the development of a genealogy; and content analysis of data collected to build the genealogy.

Foucaultian conceptualisation of using a genealogy to explain the relationship between power and knowledge has been utilised as a primary theoretical framework. The texts analysed included social-work documents as well as social documents. The research objectives were an exploration of what discourses relating to HIV/AIDS were constructed in broader Taiwanese society and within social work; and what forces and stakeholders outside and within social work formed HIV/AIDS curricula in social work in Taiwan.

The first PLWHA case in Taiwan was reported in 1984, and four key discourses about HIV/AIDS were gradually constructed: individual pathological (which blamed those with HIV/AIDS for their own predicament), programmatic, governmental, and sociocultural. The "individual pathological" discourse became dominant. Taiwanese social work did not consider HIV/AIDS as an issue until 1992, nearly 10 years after it was recognised as a serious medical and social problem in the West.

This thesis shows that, over time, four key discourses about HIV/AIDS were also represented in Taiwanese social-work texts, with the "programmatic discourse" emerging as most popular in social-work documents. The genealogy also showed that four identified subgroups within social work in Taiwan were more able to express their views about HIV/AIDS issues: social-work scholars, practitioners, students and translated social-work documents.

Reflecting dominant wider social prejudices, the genealogy revealed that Taiwanese social-work scholars were likely to adhere to the "individual pathological" discourse. The other three groups were likely to express a "programmatic discourse", which often reflected the changing governmental response over time.

Through the genealogy, external forces influencing the social-work discourse were revealed, including international responses to HIV/AIDS, the status of social work in society, Taiwanese central governmental responses, and social norms regarding sex, sexuality and homosexuality in Taiwan.

The key findings of this research lay in the revelation of the power of the four key discourses, the four visible subgroups within social work and the influential forces outside social work in Taiwan that formed and shaped the development of HIV/AIDS curricula in a complex way. What these findings provide is a pathway for developing a responsive curriculum for the education of future social workers in Taiwan.

Supervisor: Dr Ruth Phillips