Accepted Paper:

Earth and worm - a praxology of organism-environment relations  


Filippo Bertoni (Aarhus University)

Paper short abstract:

Following scientific practices mobilizing earthworms, the relationship between earth and worm emerges in multiple versions. At the same time, the category of ‘Euroamerican naturalism’ is complicated and articulated in a number of alternative ways.

Paper long abstract:

"It may be doubted whether there are many other animals which have played so important a part in the history of the world", wrote Darwin in 1881. Paradoxically, he was not talking of humans, but of earthworms. Their activity was so important to him, that he dedicated his last book to these annelids.

Also for this reason earthworms had a central role in the history of biology in the unfolding of organism-environment relationships. From this vantage point I contrast this history with the practices of different scientists. From ecotoxicologists studying - through earthworms - the effect of toxic compounds on the soil, to curators taking care of earthworm specimens in museum collections, to ecologists teaching amateurs how to recognize earthworm species, a number of scientists are everyday working with worms. In these scientific contexts, in which Euroamerican naturalism should be found, the relation between worm and soil comes into being in many com-plicated ways; tinkering with the practices of scientists and their multispecies collectives, the object of 'Euroamerican naturalism' comes to be made multiple and, often, incoherent. In this sense, taking the practices of science seriously does not mean accepting the narrative of sciences uncritically, but attending to their always different situatedness. The multispecies collectives in which science is made unfold naturalism in different ways, enacting the earthworm and its environment in a variety of relations. By attending to these collectives, not only the relationships between organism and environment emerge as complex, but also the object of 'Euroamerican naturalism' ends up being more articulated.

Panel P15
Internal others: ethnographies of euroamerican naturalism