Vasquez, Emily. 2019. "Re-Thinking Risk, Fieldworl Interrupted." In Methodological Interruptions Across the Field and Archive: Doing STS in Mexico, created by Arturo Vallejo. In Innovating STS Digital Exhibit, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science. August.
I have been researching the politics of diabetes prevention in Mexico. More specifically, I have been researching the meaning of being at "high risk" for diabetes. Sometimes this is called prediabetes. What does it mean in Mexico for someone to be living at "high risk" of developing a disease? How do we know what puts them at risk? Who determines what we know?
On the morning of September 19, 2017, I had scheduled three interviews on the outskirts of Mexico City with patients and their families. Around 12 p.m. I was speaking with a woman who had been diagnosed with prediabetes. She underwent bariatric surgery to reduce her risk. She has two daughters in their twenties. One has diabetes. Interestingly, having diabetes is also, by definition, a risk—diabetes is a condition defined according to one's risk of developing retinopathy, of going blind. Her second daughter has prediabetes. Like her mother, she is thus "at risk of developing a risk".
We were talking about the corner store her family runs. We were talking about how she worries about the children who buy Coca-Cola from her every afternoon after school. She worries about their risk. She worries about how little money the family is making.
We were talking about this when her kitchen table began to move. Telephone poles began moving in the street. Then we had to move. A 7.1 magnitude earthquake was moving Mexico City. This is when my clinic-based fieldwork, at least for the time being, had to stop.
In this web essay, I describe how the earthquake and its aftermath changed my thinking about diabetes risk. Though my interviews and clinic-based fieldwork were interrupted by the quake, I found deep parallels between living on an active fault line and living where diabetes also always feels imminent, if not inevitable.