Salla Sariola, University of Helsinki, salla.sariola (at) helsinki.fi
José Canada, University of Helsinki, jose.a.canada (at) helsinki.fi
Tiina Vaittinen, Tampere University, tiina.vaittinen (at) uta.fi
During the past decade, 130 years after the discovery of microbes, microbes have come to occupy new and central spaces in scientific enquiry as well as their social analysis. Faced by the threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and with more knowledge of the impact of healthy gut microbiota to human health in general, science is beginning to change its understanding of microbes, infections and antibiotics. On the one hand, microbes are being redefined as supportive non-human neighbours whose number vastly exceeds the number of humans on the planet. On the other, the prospect of increasing resistance requires redefinition of how infections are cured and prevented. Consequently, relationships between humans, animals, and environment are changing, evident e.g. in the practices of building immunity through fermentation or enhancement of gut microbiota; development of vaccines against bacterial infections, phage therapy or novel antibiotics; promotion of sustainable food production; and readjustments in mundane medical practices. This re-situation of microbes is present in biomedical research and care, policy and governance, and everyday practices in medical contexts and households. STS offers tools to regenerate understandings of the microbial more-than-human forms of life and their governance; human-microbe relations; interruptions caused by the absence of efficient medical countermeasures to AMR; and innovative practices that emerge as a result.
This session puts microbes at the centre of social analysis and opens up new avenues for thinking about microbial knowledge, governance, and more-than-human relations. We welcome presentations focusing on, among others:
- Practices where traditional narratives about microbes are subverted;
- Microbial forms of life as more-than-human hybrids;
- Governance and strategies aimed at regulating human-microbial relations;
- New communities of knowledge around new practices with microbes;
- Medical practices where novel forms of human-microbe relations emerge;
- Everyday practices in households that regenerate human-microbe relations (e.g. fermentation).