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Living Beyond Identity: Gay College Men Living with HIV
Denton, Jesse Michael

2014, Doctor of Philosophy, Miami University, Educational Leadership.
The lives of college students who are HIV positive in the United States have received little attention. This study addressed this lack by inquiring into the self-cultivation and institutional experiences of gay college men living with HIV. Informed by AIDS activism and queer theory, I used narrative and arts-based methods to explore participants’ self-cultivation I placed particular focus on participants’ discourse given that American sociopolitical discourse associates HIV/AIDS with gay men.

I conducted over sixty hours of in-depth interviews with nine gay college men of various ages, races, geographic locations, and institutional settings. Six of the nine participants created artwork to express their relationship to HIV/AIDS. Using poststructural narrative analysis, the major findings of this study include: higher educational silence about HIV/AIDS; an affective structure to participants’ discourse; and an askesis of shame.

Most participants encountered a silence or lack of discourse around HIV/AIDS in their institutions. Institutional silence complicated participants’ ability to discern whether to seek support or to disclose their HIV status on campus.

Although participants called upon distinct discourses, they shared a common affective structure. Having an affective structure means that these men represented and discussed HIV/AIDS as driving the way they live, although differently at different times and with various intensities determined by different events, objects and people. Like affect, their relationship with HIV varied, often unpredictably, except for its constant presence.

While these men felt differently about having HIV, I describe their common affective structure as an askesis of shame. Askesis, or self-cultivation, is a response to social contempt for gay men with HIV/AIDS and homonormative discourses of compulsory happiness. Shame is an affect involving investment in the self and others along with covering discredited aspects of the self. Therefore, an askesis of shame describes how participants covered the discrediting aspects of HIV while still investing in themselves and others.

This study carries implications for using affect theory in conceptualizing college students’ lives and implications for queer social science methodology. I explore the complexities and difficulty of supporting this student population for institutions and faculty. Participants also supply their own recommendations for faculty and students.
Elisa Abes (Committee Chair)
Peter Magolda (Committee Member)
Lisa Weems (Committee Member)
Madelyn Detloff (Committee Member)
247 p.

Recommended Citations

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Denton, J. (2014). Living Beyond Identity: Gay College Men Living with HIV. (Electronic Thesis or Dissertation). Retrieved from

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Denton, Jesse. "Living Beyond Identity: Gay College Men Living with HIV." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2014. OhioLINK Electronic Theses and Dissertations Center. 23 Sep 2018.

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Denton, Jesse "Living Beyond Identity: Gay College Men Living with HIV." Electronic Thesis or Dissertation. Miami University, 2014.


Full text release has been delayed at the author's request until July 31, 2019