Tactics of diabetes control: Turkish immigrant experiences with chronic illness in Berlin, Germany.
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This thesis explores Turkish migrants’ practices of diabetes care in Germany. Health statistics frequently identify minority groups as vulnerable to chronic illness and Turkish-origin Germans are said to be more likely to suffer from type 2 diabetes than Germans or Turks in Turkey. Anthropological studies on marginal population groups with diabetes explore experiences of social suffering and inequality that influence such high illness prevalence, or investigate how conflictual lay beliefs and medical encounters affect illness care. Those studies that analyse active diabetes patient and healthcare practices concentrate on the majority population. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork in Berlin from September 2006 to September 2007, this thesis examines how Turkish Berliners actively engage in diabetes care, and thus joins two themes seldom connected: illness practices and marginality. Initial interviews with healthcare professionals alluded to a Turkish migrant patient group living in deprivation and immobilised by high illiteracy rates, lacking language skills and health knowledge. Despite such experience of marginality, ethnographic exploration revealed that informal diabetes care, for example through a Turkishlanguage self-help group, is nonetheless individually and collectively negotiated where formal care is inadequate. On the one hand, the thesis investigates practices of diabetes control in learning, monitoring and manoeuvring diabetes. Rather than representing the common image of the inert, disadvantaged migrant patient, Turkish Berliners of the self-help group engage in deliberate “tactics of diabetes control” to make their chronic illness experience habitable. On the other hand, the thesis explores how “diabetes among Turkish-origin Berliners” can be a form of sociality, political activism and economic enterprise that involves many social actors not only patients and their healthcare professionals, in order to fill a provision gap.