Click the star to add/remove an item to/from your individual schedule.
You need to be logged in to avail of this functionality, and to see the links to virtual rooms.

Accepted Paper:

Ambiguous alliances: the attribution of agency to microbes beyond antibiotic and probiotic approaches  
Valentina Marcheselli (Cà Foscari - University of Venice)

Paper Short Abstract:

This presentation investigates the tensions between antibiotic and probiotic approaches to microbes and argues that the framing of microbes as enemies or allies provides specific modes of interspecies relations and possibilities of action, reaction, and intervention in chemically altered times.

Paper Abstract:

“At the microscale, the organism doesn’t know or care which […] environment it’s in” tells me a scientist as we discuss how a microbe can be both a dreadful pathogen and a phenomenal ally at the same time. To her, microbes are tiny metabolic units, continuously exchanging chemicals and transforming their microbial environments; and yet, at the molecular level, an infected tissue or the surface of a rock do not look any different. This reductionist and molecular thinking substantiates and uproots dichotomies such as beneficial and detrimental, toxic and nourishing, damaging and repairing, living and dying.

In this presentation, I look into the research and practices connected to bioremediation (the deployment of living organism to repair a damaged ecosystem) as an entry point to discuss the politics and poetics of living and dying in relation to chemicals. As contemporary microbiology wrestles between an approach to microbes as enemies to be eradicated and one that sees microbes as useful “tools” or powerful allies, I wonder how the way microbes are framed might provide specific modes of interspecies relation and possibilities of action, reaction, and intervention in chemically altered times. By drawing on my ongoing ethnographic engagement with microbiologists’ practices and discourses, I take metabolism as a window into how the tension between antibiotic and probiotic approaches produces and governs different types of chemosocialities in which agency is redistributed across different spatial and temporal scales.

Panel P009
Ambivalent substances: chemosocialities in life-death worlds [Medical Anthropology Europe (MAE)]
  Session 2 Thursday 25 July, 2024, -