Program

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships, 2011

Project

Chronic Life and Makeshift Medicine: The Diabetes Pandemic and Its Paradoxes in the Margins

Department

Anthropology

Abstract

Diabetes is the number one cause of all deaths in Belize, although global health aid and circulating there primarily supports infectious disease control programs. This dissertation empirically explores the difficult paradox of living with a popularly imagined “disease of affluence” in contexts of poverty and transition, where care for chronic illnesses remains in sight, but often moves in and out of reach. This project examines how the historical imbalance in global care speaks to the developed world's own entanglement in new pathologies. Based on fieldworkin rural Belize, it explores both the surprising ways emerging symptoms of diabetes are being treated, as well as what it means for diabetes itself to be a key symptom of radical social changes in an unevenly globalized world.

Abstract

Public health is built on maps. But when it comes to diabetes in the Caribbean, many existing maps are alienating, incomplete, and full of errors. Yet remedying these misrecognitions is not simply a matter of more granular data either. Maps have long been instrumental tools for colonial and imperial power. This creates double binds in mapping the most basic facts of what is happening to people. We envision this project as a collective attempt at counter-mapping diabetes care from the Caribbean. With a focus on making visible the planetary and embodied legacies of sugar – and highlighting the ways women are already mapping their own care – we propose a platform for unorthodox map-making and community art that recognizes people not as public health “risks” or targets, but as knowledge-bearers offering insights from what they have learned by managing to hold up entire worlds.