I have type 2 diabetes and work hard to maintain my blood sugar through food choices, meal timing, portion sizing. Over my life I've dealt with depression, which has implications for diabetes, and also to some extent, food phobias. We are learning so much now about how all these elements of personhood are impacted by our gut microbiome. Elizabeth Wilson's new materialist book Gut Feminism doesn't take up diabetes, but does offer paths into all this by looking at SSRIs and the gut. Jane Bennet's Vibrant Matter takes up the issues of the distributed embodiments we can trace when we examine fatty acids in a political ecology of things. Diabetes in its various forms, are increasingly understood within complex embodiments across public infrastructures and systems: from food industries creating new food elements from waste products (high fructose corn syrup) to what counts as public health emergency (obesity epidemic) to new research linkages between brain, gut, appetite.
Recently I attended a workshop on character shaping and world-building at a conference for Science Fiction authors, FOGcon, in the San Francisco Bay Area, California. I was prompted to come to the workshop with a character in mind, ready to begin a process for creating a speculative world and a story. I immediately imagined an SF (science fiction, speculative feminisms, string figures per Haraway) story that would need …not exactly characters but actants. What about a first contact story? Traditionally these describe first contact between sentient beings in what is either an explicit or implicit story of settler colonialism. And what if the actants here are human gut microbiota and, and among, the distributed being/s making up a diabetic posthuman?
I was excitedly laying out the characters and the setting in the hallway with a friend when another woman came up behind me and showed off the hook-up for her insulin pump, saying, That's the kind of story I want to hear about!
For my paper I want to set up some of the conditions and knowledges and actants involved in such a story, maybe begin it, circulating that and then report on it as my contribution and ask for participations and discussion from the workshop.