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Anthropology of Diabetes

Medical Anthropology

The anthropology of diabetes pursues the semiotic and institutional forces that colonize global healthcare and patient life worlds. Because this diagnosis sits at the tangled intersection of genetics, food markets, embodied stress and diverse moral worlds, it has attracted wide-ranging attention. The ethnographic articles in this virtual special issue show how in diverse contexts people make sense of the increased rates of this disabling disease, how treatment and lifestyle advice are understood, and how the disease impacts families and communities.

The authors of these articles provide important insights into people’s understandings of the causes of diabetes, including violence and ill-designed food rationing programs. They point to challenges in adhering to individualized life-style and pharmaceutical advice, related to the realities of precarious lives in which people diagnosed with diabetes find it hard to find time to look after themselves well, and lack the financial means to do so. These challenges lead to cascading morbidities, adding to the tensions, challenges and fears associated with diabetes.

A review of six recent books (Hardon and Smith-Morris, also included in this virtual special issue) reflects on how the concerted efforts to prevent and treat diabetes which these books describe configure our collective understandings of metabolism. Together these articles and the books reviewed show how diabetes has proven itself a devilishly multivalent illness, which makes its management hard and provides challenging food for thought for medical anthropologists.

Anita Hardon

Get an insight into the impact and implications of this serious disease by reading the following research from Medical Anthropology. These articles will remain free to view until 31/01/2020.

Article Title Author Issue
Diabetic Retinopathy and the Cascade into Vision Loss Carolyn Smith-Morris, George H. Bresnick, Jorge Cuadros, Kathryn E. Bouskilln & Elin Rønby Pedersen Volume 39, Issue 2
“Como Si Nada”: Enduring Violence and Diabetes among Rural Women in Southern Mexico Laura Montesi Volume 37, Issue 3
Decoding the Type 2 Diabetes Epidemic in Rural India Mathew Little, Sally Humphries, Kirit Patel and Cate Dewey Volume 36, Issue 2
Healing is a Done Deal:” Temporality and Metabolic Healing Among Evangelical Christians in Samoa Jessica Hardin Volume 35, Issue 2
Applying Syndemics and Chronicity: Interpretations from Studies of Poverty, Depression and Diabetes Lesley Jo Weaver and Emily Mendenhall Volume 33, Issue 2