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Diabetes in Native Chicago

An Ethnography of Identity, Community, and Care

Margaret Pollak

Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Imprint: University of Nebraska Press
Published: 09/2021
Pages: 246
Subject: Social Science
eBook ISBN: 9781496228482


In Diabetes in Native Chicago Margaret Pollak explores experiences, understandings, and care of diabetes in a Native American community made up of individuals representing more than one hundred tribes from across the United States and Canada. Today Indigenous Americans have some of the highest rates of diabetes worldwide. While rates of diabetes climbed in reservation areas, they also grew in cities, where the majority of Native people live today. Pollak's central argument is that the relationship between human culture and human biology is a reciprocal one: colonial history has greatly contributed to the diabetes epidemic in Native populations, and the diabetes epidemic is being incorporated into contemporary discussions of ethnic identity in Native Chicago, where a vulnerability to the development of diabetes is described as a distinctly Native trait. This work is based upon ethnographic research in Native Chicago conducted between 2007 and 2017, with ethnographic and oral history interviews, observations, surveys, and archival research. Diabetes in Native Chicago illustrates how local understandings of diabetes are shaped by what community members observe in cases of the disease among family and friends. Pollak shows that in the face of this epidemic, care for disease is woven into the everyday lives of community members. Diabetes is not merely a physical disease but a social one, perpetuated by social policies and practices, and can only be thwarted by changing society.


Margaret Pollak is an assistant professor of anthropology at Indiana University?Northwest. ?


"The interdisciplinary approach to this subject makes an important contribution not only to medical anthropology and Native American studies but also to public health, medical humanities, American studies, and cultural studies. Pollak deftly and simply lays out the discursive turns of biomedical explanations about diabetes within historical context and also demonstrates the structural injustices that complicate biomedical interventions."?Sandra L. Garner, author of To Come to a Better Understanding: Medicine Men and Clergy Meetings on the Rosebud Reservation, 1973?1978