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Accepted Paper:

Tackling "modern" ills in Southern Mexico: diabetes at the interstices of indigenous and biomedical therapies  
Laura Montesi (University College London)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines how the Ikojts of Mexico act upon diabetes,a new illness seen as a symptom of modern living.By showing diabetes care practices at the interstices of indigenous and biomedical therapies,this paper discusses the potential for an equitable interface between different health systems.

Paper long abstract:

Similarly to other indigenous peoples worldwide, the Ikojts of Southern Mexico are experiencing a rising burden of noncommunicable diseases, including diabetes mellitus, considered by them a relatively new illness that, in only a few decades, has reached epidemic proportions. The appearance of diabetes on the local cultural scene has spurred the Ikojts to reflect on how societal and environmental changes are affecting their lives. Although diverse actors -- including the government, civil society organisations, academics, and people with diabetes themselves -- share a view of diabetes as a symptom of modern living, the "modernity" of such an illness is signified and acted upon in a range of (sometimes radically) different ways. Drawing on one year of fieldwork in an Ikojts community, this paper explores how people with diabetes make sense of their illness and seek (or reject) therapeutic options while moving in the interstices of biomedical and indigenous therapeutic circuits. Indeed, although diabetes is usually diagnosed in biomedical settings and "traditional" healers state that diabetes is an "illness for [Western] doctors", patients move across diverse frameworks of knowledge and practice, including the indigenous one. By analysing the intersections, the tensions, and the mutual dismissals between biomedical and indigenous therapeutic trajectories, this paper seeks to: (1) track the diverse meanings and practices that the Ikojts attach to diabetes; (2) advance some tentative thoughts on the potential that an equitable interface between biomedical and indigenous health systems could have on diabetes treatment and the tackling of "modern" ills.

Panel P088
Dialogue among indigenous traditions and health
  Session 1