Recruiting Sweetness: Translating Race and Risk in Type 2 Diabetes Research

James Doucet-Battle
UC Santa Cruz

Recruiting Sweetness describes knowledge production emerging from the increasing importance of biological and racial difference in diabetes research since the genomic revolution. It provides an ethnographic recounting of three distinct, successive, yet interrelated technological moments between 2008-2013, when causal explanations of Type 2 diabetes changed radically. It argues that race as a desirable research variable in both biotechnological development and scientific knowledge production reflects the political and economic importance of racial classification. It further argues against race as a static biological category by engaging earlier anthropological critiques of stable societies and bodies as discretely bounded entities. It evidences the dynamism of an African American racial category enabled through diasporic and transnational circulation, and how this inherent definitional instability complicates both biomedical outreach and clinical research recruitment efforts toward articulating a culturally competent message to diverse black populations occupying a singular racial category. It tells a story about how the drive to collect African-descent DNA faces the challenge of overcoming African American distrust in biomedical research and why the gendered directionality of genomic research in Type 2 diabetes raises important questions about social justice, resource disparities, and racial exclusion from the wider socioeconomic field.