‘Race’ and HIV vulnerability in a transnational context: the case of Chinese immigrants to Canada.

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Zhou YR,

Zhou YR, (click to view)

Zhou YR,


Culture, health & sexuality 2016 6 9() 1-14


Although immigrants’ sustained connections with their homelands are well documented, so far we know little about how ‘race’ – in particular, conceptions of race back home – influences the HIV vulnerability of racialised immigrants to Western countries. Drawing on data from a multi-sited, qualitative study of Chinese immigrants to Canada, this paper presents a contextualised understanding of the impacts of race on HIV risk faced by these individuals in a transnational context. Data were collected from four study sites in Canada and China as part of a study investigating the relationship between HIV risk and transnationalism. Although race appears to have bearing on their risk perceptions and sexual practices, immigrants’ understandings of race are not necessarily consistent with dominant discourses of race in Canada, but are also mediated by their racial habitus developed in China. Findings reveal the complex power dynamics – not just power asymmetries but also power fluidity – around race from a transnational perspective and thus challenge the assumed dichotomy of dominance and subordination underpinning traditional explanations of the relationship between race and HIV risk. In the context of transnationalism, researchers should go beyond a nation-bound concept of society (i.e. the host society) and take into account the simultaneous influence of both host and home countries on immigrant health.

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