T038
Antagonists, Servants, Companions: the Sciences, Technologies and Politics of Microbial Entanglements
Convenors:
Sujatha Raman (University of Nottingham)
Catherine Will (University of Sussex)
Shirlene Badger (University of Cambridge)
Kate Weiner (University of Sheffield)
Stream:
Tracks
Location:
124
Start time:
2 September, 2016 at 16:00
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

How are microbes and antimicrobial technologies represented, erased, engineered or (re)imagined in scientific work, technological interventions and public and policy developments today and in the past?

Long abstract:

How are microbes and antimicrobial technologies represented, erased, engineered or (re)imagined in scientific work, technological interventions and public and policy developments today and in the past? Media-stories of superbugs are common, and everyday life includes a range of mundane activities to eliminate, contain or otherwise keep microbes at bay. Many socio-technical arrangements for managing human entanglements with microbes remain hidden from view (e.g., routine uses of microbicides and antibacterials; industrial engineering/use of bacteria), though occasionally surfacing as objects of political and economic concern (e.g., prophylactic use of antibiotics in farming). But alongside practices in which microbes are cast as antagonist or servant in human life, microbes are increasingly framed as companion species, or, in terms of the 'commons'. Scientists are developing new collaborations to study bacterial communities in human bodies and in the environment, exploring their health-preserving role; how antimicrobial-resistant genes are expressed and selected; and the relationship between ''good'/'bad' bacteria. Antibiotics are described as global public goods and humans called upon to conserve them and learn to live with bacteria. At the same time microbiology and new forms of bio-prospecting are celebrated as sources of economic value and novel therapies. SESSIONS: 4/3