Health Subjectivities in a Diabetes Clinic in Ghana

Health Subjectivities in a Diabetes Clinic in Ghana

Sabrina M. Perlman



This article discusses how biopower is exercised in a public health clinic in Ghana. By looking at the clinician-patient encounter in a diabetes clinic as an instance of a statecitizen encounter, the expectations for and the development of expert patients as ideal citizens emerges. Clinicians play an important role in forming patients’ health subjectivities, through the subtle shaping of assumptions, bodily practice, and attentiveness (Whyte 2009). In the diabetes clinic, health subjectivities are shaped by clinicians in order to ensure patient compliance with a diabetic routine against the backdrop of a self-responsibility model of care and shrinking government support. The patients often adopt these expectations for managing their own illness as best as they can, such as changing diets, adhering to strict drug regimens, and increasing exercise, yet the wider contextual causes of and barriers to controlling diabetes are left unaddressed. However, as clinicians shape health subjectivities in the diabetes clinic, they also create the opportunity for patients to adopt health identities, through which they are able to contest or alter these expectations and demand additional social support from the state.

Keywords: Biopower; diabetes; health identities

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