Everyday attentiveness: understanding diabetes in Vietnam through literary displacement

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World-wide, diabetes is taking on epidemic proportions. This is a debilitating disease that damages and destroys bodily systems unless blood sugar levels are kept close to normal, and patients are therefore urged to practise attentive self-management. Among people with type II diabetes in Vietnam, such everyday attentiveness seems to far exceed clinical recommendations, suffusing daily lives in pervasive and yet elusive ways. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in northern Vietnam, this article aims to depict the lifeworlds in which diabetes attentiveness unfolds. Seeking to capture the inchoate ways in which diabetes alters everyday lives, the article develops literary displacement as an experimental mode of writing-cum-inquiry that combines standard ethnography with ethnographic fiction. Taking diabetes in Vietnam as its case, the article shows how literary displacement can contribute to cultivating ethnographic as well as analytical sensibilities, strengthening the capacity of anthropology to capture subtle and subdued layers of life.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)595-612
Publication statusPublished - 2022

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