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Sensibility, Body, and Attunement

Sat, September 2, 2:00 to 3:30pm, Sheraton Boston, 3, Fairfax A

Abstract

A patient with type 1 diabetes lives on the edge of a mini-earthquake; a “body quake.” The danger is always present, running under the skin, ready to appear, to surprise, to unsettle, to destabilize, to kill. Caught between extremes of constantly moving blood sugars, of highs and lows, of hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia, the body can crumble and shut down at any moment. We are all mortal, but we forget about death until it strikes. Someone with a chronic disease, however, is constantly reminded of mortality and of the fact ‘of having a body.’ Indeed, the body might fail at any time—threatening to overwhelm the mind’s desire to fight and resist. Diabetics liken this to living just beyond the fear and struggle of being under water and unable to breathe—in a moment of giving-in to a pleasurable and ethereal numbness, a kind of dream, a kind of nirvana. To survive, the person with type 1 diabetes has to be ‘read’ with incredible acuity. The disease thus narrates a story about a body that doesn’t stop at the boundaries of the flesh to incorporate machines, humans, and animals in its functioning. Type 1 Diabetes is also about a complex “surveillance” system of reading and recording made by digitized and organic senses that are attuned (or not) to the flesh. Feedback loops, attunement, flows and frictions, crash and repair. What is at stake, perhaps, is another conception of the body.

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