Accepted paper:

The Glucometer: Figures don't lie, but women figure


Maki Iwase (University of Toronto)

Paper short abstract:

The glucometer is a hand-held device for monitoring blood glucose levels of patients outside the diabetes clinic. Through everyday analytics of glycemic outputs, women diagnosed with gestational diabetes figure out subversive strategies to avert the biomedical gaze and resist further medicalization.

Paper long abstract:

This paper explores how the glucometer exceeds its intended use as a diabetic device for self-blood-glucose monitoring beyond biomedical practices of diabetes management. In the clinical context, the numerical figures that appear on the glucometer serve as a metric of control and function as the ultimate arbiter of adherence. These glycemic outputs represent unquestioned truths that inform decisions about the dietary regimen and the need for intensive insulin treatment. However, quotidian practices of self-blood glucose monitoring outside of the clinic tell another story. Drawing on interviews and ethnographic findings from fieldwork in a diabetic clinic located in Southern Ontario, I examine how pregnant women diagnosed with gestational diabetes employ the glucometer to resist biomedical authority and avoid further medicalization. While figures on the glucometer don't lie, I demonstrate how women figure out subversive strategies to yield optimal blood sugars values in order to convince clinicians that they are compliant with the dietary regimen and avert the possibility of being prescribed insulin. By resisting insulin treatment, women inadvertently avoid its iatrogenic effect of weight gain which ironically increases the long-term risks of developing insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. This paper examines the biopedagogical practices of self-blood glucose monitoring as a strategy of dietary governmentality and explores the effects of everyday analytics that extend beyond the effectiveness of biomedical diabetes management. Implications of these findings will be considered in relation to broader STS scholarship on everyday self-tracking.

panel T102
Everyday analytics: The politics and practices of self-monitoring