Making Diabetes. The Politics of Diabetes Diagnostics in Uganda

Liggins, Arlena Siobhan (2020)


“Diabetes is regarded as one of the most challenging global health issues of the 21st century. Especially countries with weak health infrastructure are struggling to deal with the increased demands this chronic disease entails. Tracing the effects of a diagnostic device, the glucometer, this book examines how it contributes to the making of diabetes in contemporary Uganda. Arlena S. Liggins demonstrates that depending on who uses the glucometer, the outcomes may go far beyond diagnosis. The book draws a complex picture of hopes and misplaced expectations, of trust and mistrust in a technology to which access in the first place is all but a given.”


“What is a number, really? In this chapter, I aim to showcase the power of numbers. The world we are living in today is, perhaps as never before, a world in which quantifications and metrics take on an imperative role. We live in a “world of numbers” (Diaz-Bone and Didier 2016), in a “world of indicators” (Rottenburg et al. 2015), and in a world, in which what counts in global and public health is “metrics” (Adams 2016). Accordingly, we may express ourselves or may be expressed through numbers. A number measures something or rather is a symbol and result of measuring something. It represents an amount and/or a quantity; it gives a picture of something and it clearly most often stands for something. I think we agree that no matter for what we may use a number, it will not have a deeper meaning unless you, or someone adds this meaning to it. Numbers have to be related to something or some-body, and whoever uses them has to have an understanding or the authority to interpret and analyze this number in order to make it useful in one way or the other. A number might be an abstract or empty entity for one person, while it may mean the world for another. […] The numbers we will come to meet in this chapter are not the numbers used to monitor or surveil a group of people (previous chapter). Instead we will look at numbers and the meaning ascribed to them for the life and the self-monitoring practices of the “everyday life worlds of ordinary people” (Diaz-Bone and Didier 2016: 6).” (pp. 149/150)