Congratulations Dr. Nicole Charles

Nicole was one of 56 U of T researchers to receive a Connaught New Researcher Award.

Dr. Charles’ project surrounds Barbados’s infamous position both as the world’s first Black slave society in the 17th-19th centuries and its contemporary notoriety as the ‘amputation capital of the world’ for its high incidence of diabetes-related amputations amid a growing epidemic of diabetes. Caribbean historians have linked this epidemic not merely to the prominence of sugar within citizens’ diets, but to its connection with the emotional, physical and nutritional brutality of slavery. And yet, the dehumanising work of the race and gender categories of slavery and its impact on the uneven distribution of diabetes among Black Barbadian women has yet to be confronted within public health research. As the COVID-19 pandemic exposes the racialized and gendered legacies of coloniality and the vulnerabilities which inhere in the region’s reliance on tourism and services, imported food, and women’s unpaid care work in relation to diabetes and other non-communicable diseases, attention to these genealogies becomes increasingly urgent. 

The proposed project combines feminist theory with social science and historical methodologies with the conjoined aims of delineating the socio-historical factors that co-constitute the gendered risk factors and management of type 2 diabetes, and its associated societal narratives in postcolonial Barbados. Together with Dr. Tonya Haynes at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill, Dr. Charles in the process of applying for additional funding to scale this project to work closely with Barbadian visual artists to share aspects of the research and co-create an arts exhibit that explores the gendered, embodied and historical complexity of diabetes in Barbados. This project is the first of its kind to study the public health crisis of diabetes in Barbados from this genealogical perspective and interdisciplinary methodological approach and promises to have transnational implications on this global epidemic across the Black diaspora.

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