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Symbiotic living: human-microbial relations in everyday life II 
Valdimar Tr. Hafstein (University of Iceland)
Salla Sariola (University of Helsinki)
Jón Þór Pétursson (Lund University)
Matthäus Rest (Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History)
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Wednesday 23 June, 14:00-15:45 (UTC+3)

Short Abstract:

The panel-workshop explores symbiotic living between humans and microbes and how that coexistence is shaped through everyday cultural practices, present and past. The session combines presentations with hands-on fermentation.

Long Abstract

This panel-workshop experiments with everyday symbiotic practices of humans and microbes, their effects, affects, and social imaginaries. It combines presentations and hands-on fermentation.

Images of homemade sourdough bread have flooded social media during the pandemic, with accounts of successes and failures; a model of resilience in times of lockdown and social distancing. Recently, scientific knowledge, popular interest and commercial investment in intimate relations between humans and microbes have grown exponentially. This raises new questions and challenges for research, even as multi-species collectives that have fermented together for hundreds of human (and millions of microbial) generations are threatened with extinction.

Human-microbial relations involve varied and conflicting social practices, including circulation of microbiota, narratives and epistemologies within and between the communities these engender. Indeed, fermentation, composting and various agricultural practices may be seen as forms of interspecies communication, complemented by anecdotes and jokes conveying a sense of purpose and belonging. How are these interspecies relations shaped through everyday practices, present and past? This panel challenges scholars to break away from immunitarian models that define microbes as intruding others to address how to live with companion species that have sustained humans for millennia.

During the first day we will bake sourdough bread and those who want to bake should bring along flour and a starter culture. All presentations will take place on the first day. During the second day, we will make cheese and for that you will need 1-2 litres of milk, vinegar, and yoghurt.

Accepted papers: