"I've never been fat, how can I have bloody diabetes": overweight and obesity as cultural signifiers for type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) and its iatrogenic consequences
Darlene McNaughton (Flinders University)
Paper short abstract:
In recent decades, weight has come to act as a cultural signifier for type 2 diabetes. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in diabetes care in south Australia we unpack the contours of this framing its sitgmatising and iatrogenic consequences and entanglement in moralizing discourses surrounding obesity.
Paper long abstract:
Although overweight and obesity are increasingly seen as the key risk factors for Type II diabetes mellitus (T2DM) there are many 'risk' factors for T2DM, including age, genetics, gestational diabetes etc. the interplay of which is not well understood. However, in recent years, the idea that weight is the risk factor and/or central cause of T2DM has become increasingly prevalent and naturalised in media representations, popular discourse, public health campaigns and academic research. In these framings, weight and in particular overweight and obesity have come to act as cultural signifiers for type 2 diabetes (McNaughton 2012, 2013). In this convergence, diabetes (like overweight and obesity) often emerges as self-inflicted: the result of wholly changeable and highly risky behaviours and 'lifestyles' that are seen to be antithetical to a long, healthy, moral life. At the same time, the complexity of the disease's aetiology, limitations in current understandings of its causes are blurred or rendered invisible. In this paper we examine the potency of this convergence: examining the ways weight and diabetes are framed in the context of diabetes care and education. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in southern Australia we unpack the contours of this convergence and its widespread acceptance amongst 'clients' and health professionals. We demonstrate the stigmatising and iatrogenic consequences of this framing, for those deemed 'at risk' or diagnosed with diabetes, while recognising their entanglement in earlier, moralising discourses surrounding obesity, individual responsibility and health
Bodies out of bounds: anthropological approaches to obesity practices