Accepted Paper:

Abundance in the Anthropocene  

Authors:

Eva Giraud (The University of Sheffield)
Eleanor Hadley Kershaw (University of Nottingham)
Richard Helliwell (University of Nottingham)

Paper short abstract:

This paper contrasts three cases: bed bugs, hookworms, and antibiotic resistant microbes, which have flourished intimately with(in) humans as other lifeforms decline, in order to situate abundance, attachment and affect as constitutive elements of the Anthropocene that require new modes of relating.

Paper long abstract:

Numerous conceptual attempts have been made to understand the Anthropocene in relation to environmental toxicity (Murphy, 2006, 2017; Alaimo, 2016; Shotwell, 2017) and overwhelming species and habitat loss (van Dooren, 2014; Bird Rose et al, 2017). Amidst this contamination and extinction, however, ecological niches have emerged that are often taken as signs of resilience and hope, from mushrooms flourishing in damaged forests (Tsing, 2015) to urban wildlife in brownfield sites (Lorimer, 2015). Yet resilience presents more complex challenges when it is a characteristic of lifeforms who are intimately entangled with humans in more contentious ways, such as 'pests', parasites, and pathogens.

This paper draws together research from three cases: bed bugs, hookworms, and antibiotic resistant microbes, all of which have flourished in particular contexts as other lifeforms decline. Such resurgence, emergence and restoration are bound up with the failure and unintended consequences of prior attempts to remove these beings from human worlds, and the degradation or pathologisation of the technologies, infrastructures and situations that previously kept them at bay.

Through contrasting our three cases we identify difficulties in negotiating the intimate ways that humans have become re-entangled with and produce knowledge about these lifeforms. We then focus attention on the possibilities each case poses for finding ways of 'being alongside' (Latimer, 2013) actors who might be unsettling or even threatening, but can no longer be expunged from human worlds. In doing so, we situate abundance, attachment and affect as constitutive elements of the Anthropocene that require sustained engagement and intervention.

Panel A15
Intimate entanglements in science and technology