In Rethinking Diabetes, Emily Mendenhall investigates how global and local factors transform how diabetes is perceived, experienced, and embodied from place to place. The book focuses on the stories of women living with diabetes near or below the poverty line in urban settings in the United States, India, South Africa, and Kenya. Mendenhall shows how women’s experiences of living with diabetes cannot be dissociated from their social responsibilities of caregiving, demanding family roles, expectations, and gendered experiences of violence that often displace their ability to care for themselves first.
These case studies reveal the ways in which a global story of diabetes overlooks the unique social, political, and cultural factors that produce syndemic diabetes differently across contexts. Mendenhall argues that the link between sugar and diabetes overshadows the ways in which underlying biological processes linking hunger, oppression, trauma, unbridled stress, and chronic mental distress produce diabetes. The life history narratives in the book show how deeply embedded these factors are in the ways diabetes is experienced and (re)produced among poor communities around the world.