“Teveel suiker?” Representations of cross-cultural mediation in the case of multilingual support during diabetes treatment for immigrants in urban Flanders/Belgium.

Stef Slembrouck

English, Ghent University, Belgium

WS166: Language Use, Interaction and Representations of Health in Urban Contexts of Immigrant Health Provision

This paper addresses the representation of diabetes and the interactional negotiation of its treatment in a multilingual context of immigrant health care. During fieldwork, diabetes is often mentioned as a common condition among ‘first generation’ immigrant patients (most of whom entered the country in the 60s and who ‘mostly do not speak Dutch’ or ‘have limited Dutch’). Diabetes is also referred to as particularly demanding from a communication point of view and, in one health centre, it is reported that this justifies the introduction of cross-cultural bilingual mediators, especially during weekly treatment coaching sessions.

The questions addressed in this paper are: How is diabetes represented as a medical condition? How are migrants seen as ‘problematic’ vis-à-vis this health intervention? What language repertoires, interactional strategies and cross-cultural strategies do professionals assume to be necessary to manage this complex syndrome in immigrant patients? Answers to this questions in turn instruct us to explore an under-researched area of immigrant health care: How do immigrants make sense of the illness? How do the participants make sense of each other and their contributions when the condition is diagnosed and when attending to the many lifestyle implications that come with treatment? The analysis will focus on the role of language ideologies and ideologies of interaction, while stressing the complex interconnections with identity work and representations of health and illness.

The data for this paper are drawn from fieldwork (interviews, participant observation) which was conducted in 05-06/2006 and 11-12/2007 in an urban health centre in Ghent which is committed to outreach and patient-centred health care, while identifying itself as serving a neighbourhood population which is predominantly of Turkish descent.

Session: Workshop (part 2)
Language Use, Interaction and Representations of Health in Urban Contexts of Immigrant Health Provision
Thursday, April 3, 2008, 15:45-17:15
room: 07