Type One Cybernetics: Biotechnical Embodiment as a Crip/Queer Site of Feminist Knowledge Production



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Advancements in medical biotechnology are moving at breakneck speed in the twenty-first century. These trends are especially clear in the developments of biotechnology for type one diabetes management, as medical technology analysts predict that 2021 will be a critical moment for the diabetes biotech industry. This projection of economic success for biotechnology companies comes amidst a worldwide health crisis that continues to illuminate many of the existing inadequacies of the United States’ healthcare system. This project aims to question the motivations behind biotechnological advancements as they relate to Foucauldian notions of biopolitics, power, and control, while wrestling with the reality of the positive changes these biotechnologies have brought to my own daily management and care rituals as a type one diabetic. This thesis is partially an auto-ethnography in the tradition of feminist science research, where much of my empirical data is gathered through my daily care practices of managing my diabetes with various technologies, in a constant conversation with my disease. I employ Laura Forlano’s (2017) methodology of data rituals and intimate infrastructures to explore what it means to become diabetic as a way of knowing the world, in an era of hyper-management through biotechnology. Chapter 1 explores the history of type one diabetes diagnostics, care, and classifications, and some of the medical and cultural distinctions between type one and type two diabetes. Using theorists such as Rob Dunn, Ed Cohen, and Michelle Jamieson, I interrogate Western biomedicine’s ill-disposed and fraught relationship to autoimmune and chronic disorders, as they trouble the monocausal logic of biomedicine’s ontology. Type one diabetes is particularly complex in the notion of autoimmunity, as the processes through which pancreatic beta cells are depleted leaves many questions unanswered. Chapter 2 investigates insulin’s introduction as a manufactured hormone to treat diabetes in the first half of the twentieth century, its history of employment in psychiatric institutions, and addresses the question of the free market regulation’s failures to ensure insulin’s affordability to diabetics in the U.S. This chapter also illustrates different components of management technologies, including developments in creating an “artificial pancreas” or closed-loop system, and calls into question the motivations behind such rapid advancements in biotechnology. In chapter 3, using Paul Preciado’s (2013) theorization of the “pharmacopornographic era,” I examine the ways in which engagement with different diabetes management technologies in the United States produce a specific form of techno-crip subjectivity. Through the use of narrative, I question my own agency in relation to my data rituals (Forlano, 2017), and what it means to become an active patient (Sambrook, 2019). To conclude, I rely heavily on personal narrative and call into question what it means to “end” a project which is about a constant becoming. Using Halberstam’s (2011) theorization about queer failure, and McRuer’s (2004) discussion of de-compositional structures as a crip/queer methodology, I resist formally concluding by embracing the partials produced through crip/queer time. I turn to the figure of the cyborg (Haraway), and how it might be deconstructed and reimagined using a crip, queer-of-color critique to produce ontological possibilities of crip/queer embodiment and futurity.



queer theory, crip theory, gender studies, disability, type one diabetes, chronic illness, biotechnology