Challenging the boundaries of the family: Empirical work and methodological challenges of research on same-sex families in China

16th May 2019 : 12:45 - 14:00

Category: Seminar

Research Group: Qualitative Methods Hub

Speaker: Po Yee Lo (Sociology DPhil)

Location: Seminar Room J, Bruner Building C, Department of Education

Convener: Victoria Elliott

The seminar presents empirical findings and methodological challenges of a qualitative study about Chinese non-heterosexual women’s (lalas’) conception and formation of families in China.

Through participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and the use of photovoice, the study marks the first important attempt to explore and explain different forms of same-sex families created by lalas in China, where homosexuality remains heavily stigmatized. In the seminar, I will discuss the methodological challenges of the study, including recruitment of research participants, researcher’s position, and reflexivity, given the sensitive nature of the research topic concerning homosexuality in the Chinese context in particular. With a focus on lalas’ sexual and family practices within the family sphere, which is often hidden and considered private, the seminar highlights the importance of understanding same-sex intimacy and structural inequalities from within the family sphere, where tension within same-sex couples and between lalas’ newly formed families and their families of origin abounds. The often unheard stories of lalas are not only of interest to this sub-population of women in China, but they are conducive to transnational theoretical dialogues concerning gender, sexuality, and family change and our understanding of the importance of methodological approaches that are sensitive to local experiences of identity, sexuality, and desire.


In 2019, the University of Oxford’s Department of Education celebrates the 100th year since the passing of a statute creating what was known in 1919 as the University Department for the Training of Teachers. To celebrate our centenary a year-long series of activities will be delivered to address some of the department’s top initiatives for 2019, answer some of the big questions facing education today and to reveal the advancements the department has made to the study of and research in the field of education. Join us as we mark our 100th year and discover more about our anniversary here.

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