105. Microbiopolitics in the Postgenomic Era

Katherine Kenny, The University of Sydney; Sonja Van Wichelen, The University of Sydney;

This session will examine how the microbiome revolution that is currently underway has opened new ways of thinking about human life and bodies as deeply entangled with non-human life, environments, and ecologies. Research on the human microbiome has revealed the centrality of the vast array of microbes that live in and on our bodies, including their important role in health, disease, and behaviour. Moving beyond classificatory accounts of good and bad bugs, or pathogenic and commensal microbes, this session has two aims. First, it will investigate the complex understandings of multiplicity that microbial relations bring to the study of (human and more-than-human) sociality and kinship across scales from the microbial to the planetary. How are human-microbial relations informing social science scholarship in its study of self, community, and society and the forms of relationality and (inter/ intra)dependence therein? Second, this session will consider how the microbiomization of self and society articulates with the biopolitics that have emerged from earlier eras of geneticization (Paxon 2014, Lorimer 2020, Helmreich 2014). We have learned from the genomic revolution that its applications and technologies have radically altered how individuals and communities understand identity, race, ethnicity, and community (Nelson 2016, Nash 2015, Tallbear2013). Can we see a similar development in the application and technologies of (human and more-than-human) microbiome research? And if so, how are social scientists using microbiomic narratives and/or data in their analysis? Does microbial knowledge, as opposed to genomic knowledge, require new social science methods to capture its impact on society?

Contact: katherine.kenny@sydney.edu.au, sonja.vanwichelen@sydney.edu.au

Keywords: Feminist STS, Environmental/Multispecies Studies, microbiome, microbes, multispecies

Published: 04/07/2023