Candi(e)d Action: Biosocialities of Turkish Berliners Living with Diabetes


In this article, I explore Turkish migrants’ responses to diabetes in Germany. Anthropological studies on health inequalities tend to theorize “social suffering” as passive experiences; those that analyze active social engagement by patient groups as “biosociality” do so solely in the realm of biotechnologies and suggest that social disadvantage prevent active engagement. This article draws on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin from 2006 to 2007. Although Turkish Berliners seem burdened by diabetes, informal diabetes care, for example through a self-help group, is nonetheless collectively negotiated. Increasing incidence and awareness of diabetes in Berlin’s Turkish population and their growing political organization and economic entrepreneurship, against the backdrop of experiences of marginality, gives rise to biosociality unanticipated in previous accounts. Addressing the limitations of previous uses of biosociality, this ethnography suggests that social interaction and belonging that formed around altered biologies, here diabetes, are complex and fragmented.

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