Larger than Life: Personal and Social Transitions within Type 2 Diabetes

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Type 2 diabetes, a chronic illness, is reaching epidemic proportions in North America. Pharmaceutical and consumer companies alike are embracing ethnography as a means to gain insight into the condition and to meet the complex needs of diabetics. This paper explores three topics that emerged from our ethnographic work in this area. First, we discuss the contribution of ethnography towards understanding the lived experience of Type 2 diabetes. Second, we suggest Type 2 diabetes should be viewed as a meta-transition that encapsulates four types of transition, each of which is an important aspect of the diabetic experience, and which may provide critical insights in an applied context. Third, we argue that applied ethnography can be dramatically enriched by an anthropologically and theoretically informed approach, without which the experience of, and transitions within, Type 2 diabetes cannot be fully understood and the social and business benefits maximized.

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