Anthropology and Antimicrobial Resistance

Helen Lambert (University of Bristol)
Christie Cabral (University of Bristol)
Adam Brisley (University of Bristol)
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Short abstract:

This panel invites submissions that explore antimicrobial resistance as a key global challenge.

Long abstract:

Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is a key priority for global health and development. The growing occurrence of drug-resistant infections is deeply rooted in economic, technological and social changes. Antimicrobials are used in human medicine, routinely added to animal feed in meat production, and found in many industrial processes including oil pipelines to prevent bacterial growth. Antimicrobial residues from these uses seep into soil and water, enabling transmission of resistance through the environment. As a geographically borderless, multi-sectoral problem requiring cross-disciplinary engagement, understanding AMR reignites central debates in anthropology. AMR is a microbial response to human action but can also be viewed as a socio-material phenomenon that traverses Cartesian divisions, implicating both human and non-human agency, or as a consequence of competition and growth, an inevitable result of the contradictions of capital. AMR is enmeshed in processes of modernisation and globalisation and reflects patterns of economic inequality. Drug-resistant infections are most prevalent in lower-income settings, where pharmaceuticalisation and rising consumer demand for meat outpace the establishment of public health measures to prevent infection. Despite the language of threat deployed by politicians and scientists, AMR cannot be eliminated; resistance is a continual process founded in fundamental biosocial relations. Anthropology's holistic approach is ideally suited to studying AMR and contributing creatively to tackling it, together with other disciplines. Panel contributions may address: • Antibiotic use in community, industrial, or healthcare settings • Anthropology and the interdisciplinary challenge of AMR • Governmental and technological responses to AMR, policy, surveillance, evidence • Human-microbe relations • AMR as an ecological challenge