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Accepted Paper:

Towards material-semiotic biographies of more-than-human life: Diffracting life histories of human persons and gut microbiota.  
Wim Van Daele (University of Agder)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines some stories told by gut microbiota and human beings, proposes to read these in a diffractive way, and examine how both become revelatory of each other. As such, these stories entangle into material-semiotic biographies of more-than human life and society.

Paper long abstract:

Inspired by the environment-sensitive (micro)biology of microbial communities within the human person, I will explore how a synergistic cooperation between socio-cultural anthropologists and microbiological researchers in this field can work through fleshing out material-semiotic biographies (Law 2004, Niewöhner 2020) of the more-than-human being. I suggest that we can listen to the stories that gut microbiota tell, through shotgun sequencing of the entire microbial community in the gut, as well as stories of human beings and their collectives, through a careful ethnographic study of practices and collection of individual and collective biographies (of changes in ways of life, eating habits). Subsequently I suggest to read these stories in a diffractive way (Barad 2007), where we ‘read’ the gut microbiota composition through the life biographies of human beings and societies, and vice versa. In this way, it should become possible to understand how both biographies may relate to each other, causally or not, and entangle into the material-semiotic biography of more-than human life and society. In this way, we can better understand how the situated microbiology tells us something about changes in society and how ways of life tell us something about the microbial communities within and without the human person. I will discuss this interdisciplinary diffraction of microbial and human biographies at the hand of some of the very few existing attempts (de Filippo et al 2010, Smits et al 2017), and discuss my experience in cooperating with gut microbiota researchers in setting up such a research in Sri Lanka.

Panel Exti03
Responsibility in a more-than-human anthropogenic world: conceptions, negotiations and anticipations
  Session 1 Wednesday 31 March, 2021, -