We Grew as We Grew: Longitudinal Perspectives on Youth Activism, Visual Methodologies, and HIV Prevention

Project: Research

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In 2002, Thabo was an outspoken young activist around HIV prevention in his community of Khayelitsha, one of the largest and most impoverished townships in South Africa. Thabo was one of a dozen young people involved in a multi-year qualitative educational research project that included interviews, the production of literary texts, a documentary film, and a series of creative art works (Walsh 2004). Thabo became well-known youth spokesperson, and flew to conferences around the world teaching young people about HIV prevention and speaking on health-related issues. Yet over ten years later, many of his dreams were shattered as the relentless poverty around him took its toll, and he struggled to survive. What happened in the intervening years of his life? How did time, in combination with structural factors, affect the educational experiences he had as a teenager? What difference did it make? Educational research using visual methods has transformative potential, yet structural violence, poverty and other factors can inhibit the possibilities of positive life-long impacts for participants. In response, longitudinal perspectives that focus on life events through time can give researchers a better understanding of how educational work is effected as participants intersect with the communities and societies in which they live. (Mitchell 2014; Walsh 2013; Weller & Shirani 2010; Neale 2010). While these insights can be valuable into developing more effective programs, it is increasingly difficult for educational research to have the resources, or time, to conduct such long-term qualitative work. This study addresses this gap, through a longitudinal analysis of an educational research project in which we followed participants from teenagers to adults over the past 12 years. Critically, the study explores the following questions: In what ways do experiences with educational, arts-based research around HIV prevention remain with participants over their transition to adulthood? What are the limits, and potentials, of such educational projects? How do issues of gender, class, and race intersect with interventionist education initiatives? What can we learn from taking a longitudinal approach to research on HIV education that can help improve long-term outcomes? This study draws on research I started in 2002-2004, with follow up in-depth interviews and ethnographies that were done in 2006, 2008, and 2011. For this, the final phase of the project, I propose to conduct new research with participants to trace their journey from teens into adulthood, with the goal of developing a book-length manuscript of the 12 year trajectory.


Project number9048059
Grant typeECS
Effective start/end date1/12/155/09/16

    Research areas

  • longitudinal research ,visual methodologies,Youth,HIV and AIDS,