SlideShare a Scribd company logo
1 of 30
You are not alone
- Cultural and philosophical challenges of microbiome research
(or: towards a microbial humanities)
Adam Bencard
Associate Professor, Ph.D.
Medical Museion and NNF Center for
Basic Metabolic Research
University of Copenhagen
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
”The most common bacteria in snow is Pseudomonas Syringae,
which is the cause of a number of diseases in plants, including beans
and tomatoes, and which the agricultural sector therefore has been
trying to eradicate. But now, since it turns out that the bacteria
might play an important role in precipitation, that might not be a
good idea.
The question is whether the bacteria is a friend or an enemy. I don’t
have the answer.”
(Brent C. Christner, 2008)
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
• Historical questions: How has our relationship to the microbial
world played out in cultural and societal terms? What sort of
patterns, behaviours and ways of thinking has come out of this
relationship?
• Philosophical questions: How has research on the microbial
world influenced how we understand what it means to be human
(including the structure of the organism, the nature of
subjectivity and our relationship to the natural world)
• This is a complicated, interdisciplinary field – and not a series of
questions that can be solved in a laboratory
Microbiome + humanities
Us vs them – the control paradigm
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
Us vs them – a paradigm of control
• The formation of a ’microbiopolitics’ framed as a constant struggle
between microbial and human forces
• Purity and cleanliness – a new take on a long cultural
• A new formulation of the human body: A bounded entity under siege
• A paradigm of control – made manifest expecially through antibiotics
• A cultural preoccupation – just like today
Youghurt salon / Copenhagen 1909
Elie Metchnikoff (1845-1916)
The microbial battle within
• “Man is constantly standing, as it were, on the brink of a precipe;
he is continually on the threshold of disease. Every moment of his
life he runs the risk of being overpowered by poisons generated
within his system.”
(Charles Bouchard, Lectures on Autointoxication in Disease, 1887)
• ”In effect, we fight microbe with microbe … there seems hope
that we shall in time be able to transform the entire intestinal
flora from a harmful to an innocous one … the beneficent effect
of this transformation must be enourmous”
(Elie Metchnikoff, On the Prolongation of Life, 1912)
The microbial battle within
“Only the more senior members of the specialty would remember the
excitement which was caused in the mental hospital world by the researches
of Metchnikoff, and the statements concerning the Bacillus Bulgaricus. At the
time there were no laboratories [to make Bulgaricus sour milk] at Rainhill
Asylum and many other places, though there was a good one at Wakefield.
Dr Wiglesworth, who was the speaker’s chief, was greatly interested in the
subject, and he gave many of the patients plenty of sour milk. But when
subjected to what might be called the “acid test” they did not, after some
months of treatment, show any difference mentally.”
W.F. Menzies, M.D. - British Journal of Psychiatry, 1930
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
Challenges of microbiome research
1. ‘Me’ or ‘us’? – symbiosis and co-development
2. Microbes on the mind – the microbiome as part of our
mental states
3. Microbial culture – what does it mean to think of and
treat ourselves as ecosystems?
‘Me’ or ‘us’?
Humans as entangled geographies
“When a new human being emerges from its mother, a new island
pops up in microbial space. Although a human lifespan is a blink in
evolutionary time, the human island chain has existed for several
million years, and our ancestors stretch back over the millennia in a
continuous archipelago”
(Ley et al., 2007, p. 3).
‘Me’ or ‘us’?
Humans as entangled geographies
“An ecological perspective influences not only our understanding of
animal–microbiome interactions but also their greater role in
biology. The ecosystem that is an individual animal and its many
microbial communities [i.e., the holobiont] does not occur in
isolation but is nested within communities of other organisms that,
in turn, coexist in and influence successively larger neighborhoods
comprising ever more complex assemblages of microbes, fungi,
plants, and animals.”
(McFall-Ngai et al, “Animals in a bacterial world”, 2013)
‘Me’ or ‘us’?
You are not alone
“If individuality is a matter of being functionally integrated to the extent that
the causality between the interacting parts may persist or cease when one of
these parts is faced with an evolutionary pressure, we ought to consider, for
biological research purposes, that the single Homo sapiens is not in fact the
real biological individual.
[…]
the real biological individual is a super-individual defined as the sum of the
organism + its microbiome; it is this integrated symbiotic association that is
able to persist and survive. As the poet Walt Whitman aptly pointed out in
Song of Myself, ‘I am large, I contain multitudes.’”
(Hutter et al, “Being human is a gut feeling,” 2015 )
Microbes on the mind
Microbes on the mind
“This includes the possibility that such mutualisms could influence
the evolution of immunological systems, shape higher cognitive
functions at the individual level, and work as a selective force
promoting socialization and social structures, with an influence on
the psychobiological basis of gregariousness, social perception, mate
choice, and sexual behavior”
(Montiel-Castro 2013)
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
Microbes on the mind
• Microbes bring the outside in, reconfiguring the nature of the
mind-body division implicit in ‘psychosomatic’
• At a philosophical level, what are the implications for views of the
subject and the status of thinking, conscious human being?
• How does this research impact long-standing brain-bound notions
of subjectivity?
• And how is this played in the public field, particularly in relation
to notions of mental health?
Microbial culture
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18
More entangled and connected than previous models
More open and porous, less bounded
More complex, more individualised
A new form of holism – but an opaque one
Imagining a microbial subject
Towards a microbial humanities
Some philosophical challenges of microbiome research:
• ‘Me’ or ‘us’? - what are the cultural and philosophical
implications of symbiosis, co-development and co-existence with
microbes?
• Microbes on the mind - How might integrating our gut
microbiome into our sense of self change our self-understanding?
• Microbial culture - what might a microbiopolitics based on
cooperation rather than control look like?

More Related Content

Recently uploaded

Virulence Analysis of Citrus canker caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citr...
Virulence Analysis of Citrus canker caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citr...Virulence Analysis of Citrus canker caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citr...
Virulence Analysis of Citrus canker caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citr...TALAPATI ARUNA CHENNA VYDYANAD
 
NuGOweek 2024 full programme - hosted by Ghent University
NuGOweek 2024 full programme - hosted by Ghent UniversityNuGOweek 2024 full programme - hosted by Ghent University
NuGOweek 2024 full programme - hosted by Ghent Universitypablovgd
 
Quantifying Artificial Intelligence and What Comes Next!
Quantifying Artificial Intelligence and What Comes Next!Quantifying Artificial Intelligence and What Comes Next!
Quantifying Artificial Intelligence and What Comes Next!University of Hertfordshire
 
Soil and Water Conservation Engineering (SWCE) is a specialized field of stud...
Soil and Water Conservation Engineering (SWCE) is a specialized field of stud...Soil and Water Conservation Engineering (SWCE) is a specialized field of stud...
Soil and Water Conservation Engineering (SWCE) is a specialized field of stud...yogeshlabana357357
 
SaffronCrocusGenomicsThessalonikiOnlineMay2024TalkOnline.pptx
SaffronCrocusGenomicsThessalonikiOnlineMay2024TalkOnline.pptxSaffronCrocusGenomicsThessalonikiOnlineMay2024TalkOnline.pptx
SaffronCrocusGenomicsThessalonikiOnlineMay2024TalkOnline.pptxPat (JS) Heslop-Harrison
 
Erythropoiesis- Dr.E. Muralinath-C Kalyan
Erythropoiesis- Dr.E. Muralinath-C KalyanErythropoiesis- Dr.E. Muralinath-C Kalyan
Erythropoiesis- Dr.E. Muralinath-C Kalyanmuralinath2
 
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 6) Human and Microbial interaction
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 6) Human and Microbial interactionGBSN - Microbiology (Unit 6) Human and Microbial interaction
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 6) Human and Microbial interactionAreesha Ahmad
 
ERTHROPOIESIS: Dr. E. Muralinath & R. Gnana Lahari
ERTHROPOIESIS: Dr. E. Muralinath & R. Gnana LahariERTHROPOIESIS: Dr. E. Muralinath & R. Gnana Lahari
ERTHROPOIESIS: Dr. E. Muralinath & R. Gnana Laharimuralinath2
 
Detectability of Solar Panels as a Technosignature
Detectability of Solar Panels as a TechnosignatureDetectability of Solar Panels as a Technosignature
Detectability of Solar Panels as a TechnosignatureSérgio Sacani
 
SCHISTOSOMA HEAMATOBIUM life cycle .pdf
SCHISTOSOMA HEAMATOBIUM life cycle  .pdfSCHISTOSOMA HEAMATOBIUM life cycle  .pdf
SCHISTOSOMA HEAMATOBIUM life cycle .pdfDebdattaGhosh6
 
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 7) Microbiology in Everyday Life
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 7) Microbiology in Everyday LifeGBSN - Microbiology (Unit 7) Microbiology in Everyday Life
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 7) Microbiology in Everyday LifeAreesha Ahmad
 
mixotrophy in cyanobacteria: a dual nutritional strategy
mixotrophy in cyanobacteria: a dual nutritional strategymixotrophy in cyanobacteria: a dual nutritional strategy
mixotrophy in cyanobacteria: a dual nutritional strategyMansiBishnoi1
 
Exomoons & Exorings with the Habitable Worlds Observatory I: On the Detection...
Exomoons & Exorings with the Habitable Worlds Observatory I: On the Detection...Exomoons & Exorings with the Habitable Worlds Observatory I: On the Detection...
Exomoons & Exorings with the Habitable Worlds Observatory I: On the Detection...Sérgio Sacani
 
The Scientific names of some important families of Industrial plants .pdf
The Scientific names of some important families of Industrial plants .pdfThe Scientific names of some important families of Industrial plants .pdf
The Scientific names of some important families of Industrial plants .pdfMohamed Said
 
TEST BANK for Organic Chemistry 6th Edition.pdf
TEST BANK for Organic Chemistry 6th Edition.pdfTEST BANK for Organic Chemistry 6th Edition.pdf
TEST BANK for Organic Chemistry 6th Edition.pdfmarcuskenyatta275
 
Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercont...
Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercont...Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercont...
Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercont...Sérgio Sacani
 
In-pond Race way systems for Aquaculture (IPRS).pptx
In-pond Race way systems for Aquaculture (IPRS).pptxIn-pond Race way systems for Aquaculture (IPRS).pptx
In-pond Race way systems for Aquaculture (IPRS).pptxMAGOTI ERNEST
 
IISc Bangalore M.E./M.Tech. courses and fees 2024
IISc Bangalore M.E./M.Tech. courses and fees 2024IISc Bangalore M.E./M.Tech. courses and fees 2024
IISc Bangalore M.E./M.Tech. courses and fees 2024SciAstra
 
Plasma proteins_ Dr.Muralinath_Dr.c. kalyan
Plasma proteins_ Dr.Muralinath_Dr.c. kalyanPlasma proteins_ Dr.Muralinath_Dr.c. kalyan
Plasma proteins_ Dr.Muralinath_Dr.c. kalyanmuralinath2
 

Recently uploaded (20)

Virulence Analysis of Citrus canker caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citr...
Virulence Analysis of Citrus canker caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citr...Virulence Analysis of Citrus canker caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citr...
Virulence Analysis of Citrus canker caused by Xanthomonas axonopodis pv. citr...
 
NuGOweek 2024 full programme - hosted by Ghent University
NuGOweek 2024 full programme - hosted by Ghent UniversityNuGOweek 2024 full programme - hosted by Ghent University
NuGOweek 2024 full programme - hosted by Ghent University
 
Quantifying Artificial Intelligence and What Comes Next!
Quantifying Artificial Intelligence and What Comes Next!Quantifying Artificial Intelligence and What Comes Next!
Quantifying Artificial Intelligence and What Comes Next!
 
Soil and Water Conservation Engineering (SWCE) is a specialized field of stud...
Soil and Water Conservation Engineering (SWCE) is a specialized field of stud...Soil and Water Conservation Engineering (SWCE) is a specialized field of stud...
Soil and Water Conservation Engineering (SWCE) is a specialized field of stud...
 
SaffronCrocusGenomicsThessalonikiOnlineMay2024TalkOnline.pptx
SaffronCrocusGenomicsThessalonikiOnlineMay2024TalkOnline.pptxSaffronCrocusGenomicsThessalonikiOnlineMay2024TalkOnline.pptx
SaffronCrocusGenomicsThessalonikiOnlineMay2024TalkOnline.pptx
 
Erythropoiesis- Dr.E. Muralinath-C Kalyan
Erythropoiesis- Dr.E. Muralinath-C KalyanErythropoiesis- Dr.E. Muralinath-C Kalyan
Erythropoiesis- Dr.E. Muralinath-C Kalyan
 
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 6) Human and Microbial interaction
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 6) Human and Microbial interactionGBSN - Microbiology (Unit 6) Human and Microbial interaction
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 6) Human and Microbial interaction
 
ERTHROPOIESIS: Dr. E. Muralinath & R. Gnana Lahari
ERTHROPOIESIS: Dr. E. Muralinath & R. Gnana LahariERTHROPOIESIS: Dr. E. Muralinath & R. Gnana Lahari
ERTHROPOIESIS: Dr. E. Muralinath & R. Gnana Lahari
 
Detectability of Solar Panels as a Technosignature
Detectability of Solar Panels as a TechnosignatureDetectability of Solar Panels as a Technosignature
Detectability of Solar Panels as a Technosignature
 
SCHISTOSOMA HEAMATOBIUM life cycle .pdf
SCHISTOSOMA HEAMATOBIUM life cycle  .pdfSCHISTOSOMA HEAMATOBIUM life cycle  .pdf
SCHISTOSOMA HEAMATOBIUM life cycle .pdf
 
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 7) Microbiology in Everyday Life
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 7) Microbiology in Everyday LifeGBSN - Microbiology (Unit 7) Microbiology in Everyday Life
GBSN - Microbiology (Unit 7) Microbiology in Everyday Life
 
Chemistry Data Delivery from the US-EPA Center for Computational Toxicology a...
Chemistry Data Delivery from the US-EPA Center for Computational Toxicology a...Chemistry Data Delivery from the US-EPA Center for Computational Toxicology a...
Chemistry Data Delivery from the US-EPA Center for Computational Toxicology a...
 
mixotrophy in cyanobacteria: a dual nutritional strategy
mixotrophy in cyanobacteria: a dual nutritional strategymixotrophy in cyanobacteria: a dual nutritional strategy
mixotrophy in cyanobacteria: a dual nutritional strategy
 
Exomoons & Exorings with the Habitable Worlds Observatory I: On the Detection...
Exomoons & Exorings with the Habitable Worlds Observatory I: On the Detection...Exomoons & Exorings with the Habitable Worlds Observatory I: On the Detection...
Exomoons & Exorings with the Habitable Worlds Observatory I: On the Detection...
 
The Scientific names of some important families of Industrial plants .pdf
The Scientific names of some important families of Industrial plants .pdfThe Scientific names of some important families of Industrial plants .pdf
The Scientific names of some important families of Industrial plants .pdf
 
TEST BANK for Organic Chemistry 6th Edition.pdf
TEST BANK for Organic Chemistry 6th Edition.pdfTEST BANK for Organic Chemistry 6th Edition.pdf
TEST BANK for Organic Chemistry 6th Edition.pdf
 
Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercont...
Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercont...Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercont...
Climate extremes likely to drive land mammal extinction during next supercont...
 
In-pond Race way systems for Aquaculture (IPRS).pptx
In-pond Race way systems for Aquaculture (IPRS).pptxIn-pond Race way systems for Aquaculture (IPRS).pptx
In-pond Race way systems for Aquaculture (IPRS).pptx
 
IISc Bangalore M.E./M.Tech. courses and fees 2024
IISc Bangalore M.E./M.Tech. courses and fees 2024IISc Bangalore M.E./M.Tech. courses and fees 2024
IISc Bangalore M.E./M.Tech. courses and fees 2024
 
Plasma proteins_ Dr.Muralinath_Dr.c. kalyan
Plasma proteins_ Dr.Muralinath_Dr.c. kalyanPlasma proteins_ Dr.Muralinath_Dr.c. kalyan
Plasma proteins_ Dr.Muralinath_Dr.c. kalyan
 

Featured

PEPSICO Presentation to CAGNY Conference Feb 2024
PEPSICO Presentation to CAGNY Conference Feb 2024PEPSICO Presentation to CAGNY Conference Feb 2024
PEPSICO Presentation to CAGNY Conference Feb 2024Neil Kimberley
 
Content Methodology: A Best Practices Report (Webinar)
Content Methodology: A Best Practices Report (Webinar)Content Methodology: A Best Practices Report (Webinar)
Content Methodology: A Best Practices Report (Webinar)contently
 
How to Prepare For a Successful Job Search for 2024
How to Prepare For a Successful Job Search for 2024How to Prepare For a Successful Job Search for 2024
How to Prepare For a Successful Job Search for 2024Albert Qian
 
Social Media Marketing Trends 2024 // The Global Indie Insights
Social Media Marketing Trends 2024 // The Global Indie InsightsSocial Media Marketing Trends 2024 // The Global Indie Insights
Social Media Marketing Trends 2024 // The Global Indie InsightsKurio // The Social Media Age(ncy)
 
Trends In Paid Search: Navigating The Digital Landscape In 2024
Trends In Paid Search: Navigating The Digital Landscape In 2024Trends In Paid Search: Navigating The Digital Landscape In 2024
Trends In Paid Search: Navigating The Digital Landscape In 2024Search Engine Journal
 
5 Public speaking tips from TED - Visualized summary
5 Public speaking tips from TED - Visualized summary5 Public speaking tips from TED - Visualized summary
5 Public speaking tips from TED - Visualized summarySpeakerHub
 
ChatGPT and the Future of Work - Clark Boyd
ChatGPT and the Future of Work - Clark Boyd ChatGPT and the Future of Work - Clark Boyd
ChatGPT and the Future of Work - Clark Boyd Clark Boyd
 
Getting into the tech field. what next
Getting into the tech field. what next Getting into the tech field. what next
Getting into the tech field. what next Tessa Mero
 
Google's Just Not That Into You: Understanding Core Updates & Search Intent
Google's Just Not That Into You: Understanding Core Updates & Search IntentGoogle's Just Not That Into You: Understanding Core Updates & Search Intent
Google's Just Not That Into You: Understanding Core Updates & Search IntentLily Ray
 
Time Management & Productivity - Best Practices
Time Management & Productivity -  Best PracticesTime Management & Productivity -  Best Practices
Time Management & Productivity - Best PracticesVit Horky
 
The six step guide to practical project management
The six step guide to practical project managementThe six step guide to practical project management
The six step guide to practical project managementMindGenius
 
Beginners Guide to TikTok for Search - Rachel Pearson - We are Tilt __ Bright...
Beginners Guide to TikTok for Search - Rachel Pearson - We are Tilt __ Bright...Beginners Guide to TikTok for Search - Rachel Pearson - We are Tilt __ Bright...
Beginners Guide to TikTok for Search - Rachel Pearson - We are Tilt __ Bright...RachelPearson36
 
Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT and AI in Testing - A Real-World Look, present...
Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT and AI in Testing - A Real-World Look, present...Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT and AI in Testing - A Real-World Look, present...
Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT and AI in Testing - A Real-World Look, present...Applitools
 
12 Ways to Increase Your Influence at Work
12 Ways to Increase Your Influence at Work12 Ways to Increase Your Influence at Work
12 Ways to Increase Your Influence at WorkGetSmarter
 
Ride the Storm: Navigating Through Unstable Periods / Katerina Rudko (Belka G...
Ride the Storm: Navigating Through Unstable Periods / Katerina Rudko (Belka G...Ride the Storm: Navigating Through Unstable Periods / Katerina Rudko (Belka G...
Ride the Storm: Navigating Through Unstable Periods / Katerina Rudko (Belka G...DevGAMM Conference
 
Barbie - Brand Strategy Presentation
Barbie - Brand Strategy PresentationBarbie - Brand Strategy Presentation
Barbie - Brand Strategy PresentationErica Santiago
 

Featured (20)

PEPSICO Presentation to CAGNY Conference Feb 2024
PEPSICO Presentation to CAGNY Conference Feb 2024PEPSICO Presentation to CAGNY Conference Feb 2024
PEPSICO Presentation to CAGNY Conference Feb 2024
 
Content Methodology: A Best Practices Report (Webinar)
Content Methodology: A Best Practices Report (Webinar)Content Methodology: A Best Practices Report (Webinar)
Content Methodology: A Best Practices Report (Webinar)
 
How to Prepare For a Successful Job Search for 2024
How to Prepare For a Successful Job Search for 2024How to Prepare For a Successful Job Search for 2024
How to Prepare For a Successful Job Search for 2024
 
Social Media Marketing Trends 2024 // The Global Indie Insights
Social Media Marketing Trends 2024 // The Global Indie InsightsSocial Media Marketing Trends 2024 // The Global Indie Insights
Social Media Marketing Trends 2024 // The Global Indie Insights
 
Trends In Paid Search: Navigating The Digital Landscape In 2024
Trends In Paid Search: Navigating The Digital Landscape In 2024Trends In Paid Search: Navigating The Digital Landscape In 2024
Trends In Paid Search: Navigating The Digital Landscape In 2024
 
5 Public speaking tips from TED - Visualized summary
5 Public speaking tips from TED - Visualized summary5 Public speaking tips from TED - Visualized summary
5 Public speaking tips from TED - Visualized summary
 
ChatGPT and the Future of Work - Clark Boyd
ChatGPT and the Future of Work - Clark Boyd ChatGPT and the Future of Work - Clark Boyd
ChatGPT and the Future of Work - Clark Boyd
 
Getting into the tech field. what next
Getting into the tech field. what next Getting into the tech field. what next
Getting into the tech field. what next
 
Google's Just Not That Into You: Understanding Core Updates & Search Intent
Google's Just Not That Into You: Understanding Core Updates & Search IntentGoogle's Just Not That Into You: Understanding Core Updates & Search Intent
Google's Just Not That Into You: Understanding Core Updates & Search Intent
 
How to have difficult conversations
How to have difficult conversations How to have difficult conversations
How to have difficult conversations
 
Introduction to Data Science
Introduction to Data ScienceIntroduction to Data Science
Introduction to Data Science
 
Time Management & Productivity - Best Practices
Time Management & Productivity -  Best PracticesTime Management & Productivity -  Best Practices
Time Management & Productivity - Best Practices
 
The six step guide to practical project management
The six step guide to practical project managementThe six step guide to practical project management
The six step guide to practical project management
 
Beginners Guide to TikTok for Search - Rachel Pearson - We are Tilt __ Bright...
Beginners Guide to TikTok for Search - Rachel Pearson - We are Tilt __ Bright...Beginners Guide to TikTok for Search - Rachel Pearson - We are Tilt __ Bright...
Beginners Guide to TikTok for Search - Rachel Pearson - We are Tilt __ Bright...
 
Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT and AI in Testing - A Real-World Look, present...
Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT and AI in Testing - A Real-World Look, present...Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT and AI in Testing - A Real-World Look, present...
Unlocking the Power of ChatGPT and AI in Testing - A Real-World Look, present...
 
12 Ways to Increase Your Influence at Work
12 Ways to Increase Your Influence at Work12 Ways to Increase Your Influence at Work
12 Ways to Increase Your Influence at Work
 
ChatGPT webinar slides
ChatGPT webinar slidesChatGPT webinar slides
ChatGPT webinar slides
 
More than Just Lines on a Map: Best Practices for U.S Bike Routes
More than Just Lines on a Map: Best Practices for U.S Bike RoutesMore than Just Lines on a Map: Best Practices for U.S Bike Routes
More than Just Lines on a Map: Best Practices for U.S Bike Routes
 
Ride the Storm: Navigating Through Unstable Periods / Katerina Rudko (Belka G...
Ride the Storm: Navigating Through Unstable Periods / Katerina Rudko (Belka G...Ride the Storm: Navigating Through Unstable Periods / Katerina Rudko (Belka G...
Ride the Storm: Navigating Through Unstable Periods / Katerina Rudko (Belka G...
 
Barbie - Brand Strategy Presentation
Barbie - Brand Strategy PresentationBarbie - Brand Strategy Presentation
Barbie - Brand Strategy Presentation
 

Copenhagen Bioscience Lecture 8/3-18

  • 1. You are not alone - Cultural and philosophical challenges of microbiome research (or: towards a microbial humanities) Adam Bencard Associate Professor, Ph.D. Medical Museion and NNF Center for Basic Metabolic Research University of Copenhagen
  • 4. ”The most common bacteria in snow is Pseudomonas Syringae, which is the cause of a number of diseases in plants, including beans and tomatoes, and which the agricultural sector therefore has been trying to eradicate. But now, since it turns out that the bacteria might play an important role in precipitation, that might not be a good idea. The question is whether the bacteria is a friend or an enemy. I don’t have the answer.” (Brent C. Christner, 2008)
  • 6. • Historical questions: How has our relationship to the microbial world played out in cultural and societal terms? What sort of patterns, behaviours and ways of thinking has come out of this relationship? • Philosophical questions: How has research on the microbial world influenced how we understand what it means to be human (including the structure of the organism, the nature of subjectivity and our relationship to the natural world) • This is a complicated, interdisciplinary field – and not a series of questions that can be solved in a laboratory Microbiome + humanities
  • 7. Us vs them – the control paradigm
  • 10. Us vs them – a paradigm of control • The formation of a ’microbiopolitics’ framed as a constant struggle between microbial and human forces • Purity and cleanliness – a new take on a long cultural • A new formulation of the human body: A bounded entity under siege • A paradigm of control – made manifest expecially through antibiotics • A cultural preoccupation – just like today
  • 11. Youghurt salon / Copenhagen 1909
  • 13. The microbial battle within • “Man is constantly standing, as it were, on the brink of a precipe; he is continually on the threshold of disease. Every moment of his life he runs the risk of being overpowered by poisons generated within his system.” (Charles Bouchard, Lectures on Autointoxication in Disease, 1887) • ”In effect, we fight microbe with microbe … there seems hope that we shall in time be able to transform the entire intestinal flora from a harmful to an innocous one … the beneficent effect of this transformation must be enourmous” (Elie Metchnikoff, On the Prolongation of Life, 1912)
  • 14. The microbial battle within “Only the more senior members of the specialty would remember the excitement which was caused in the mental hospital world by the researches of Metchnikoff, and the statements concerning the Bacillus Bulgaricus. At the time there were no laboratories [to make Bulgaricus sour milk] at Rainhill Asylum and many other places, though there was a good one at Wakefield. Dr Wiglesworth, who was the speaker’s chief, was greatly interested in the subject, and he gave many of the patients plenty of sour milk. But when subjected to what might be called the “acid test” they did not, after some months of treatment, show any difference mentally.” W.F. Menzies, M.D. - British Journal of Psychiatry, 1930
  • 16. Challenges of microbiome research 1. ‘Me’ or ‘us’? – symbiosis and co-development 2. Microbes on the mind – the microbiome as part of our mental states 3. Microbial culture – what does it mean to think of and treat ourselves as ecosystems?
  • 18. Humans as entangled geographies “When a new human being emerges from its mother, a new island pops up in microbial space. Although a human lifespan is a blink in evolutionary time, the human island chain has existed for several million years, and our ancestors stretch back over the millennia in a continuous archipelago” (Ley et al., 2007, p. 3). ‘Me’ or ‘us’?
  • 19. Humans as entangled geographies “An ecological perspective influences not only our understanding of animal–microbiome interactions but also their greater role in biology. The ecosystem that is an individual animal and its many microbial communities [i.e., the holobiont] does not occur in isolation but is nested within communities of other organisms that, in turn, coexist in and influence successively larger neighborhoods comprising ever more complex assemblages of microbes, fungi, plants, and animals.” (McFall-Ngai et al, “Animals in a bacterial world”, 2013) ‘Me’ or ‘us’?
  • 20. You are not alone “If individuality is a matter of being functionally integrated to the extent that the causality between the interacting parts may persist or cease when one of these parts is faced with an evolutionary pressure, we ought to consider, for biological research purposes, that the single Homo sapiens is not in fact the real biological individual. […] the real biological individual is a super-individual defined as the sum of the organism + its microbiome; it is this integrated symbiotic association that is able to persist and survive. As the poet Walt Whitman aptly pointed out in Song of Myself, ‘I am large, I contain multitudes.’” (Hutter et al, “Being human is a gut feeling,” 2015 )
  • 22. Microbes on the mind “This includes the possibility that such mutualisms could influence the evolution of immunological systems, shape higher cognitive functions at the individual level, and work as a selective force promoting socialization and social structures, with an influence on the psychobiological basis of gregariousness, social perception, mate choice, and sexual behavior” (Montiel-Castro 2013)
  • 24. Microbes on the mind • Microbes bring the outside in, reconfiguring the nature of the mind-body division implicit in ‘psychosomatic’ • At a philosophical level, what are the implications for views of the subject and the status of thinking, conscious human being? • How does this research impact long-standing brain-bound notions of subjectivity? • And how is this played in the public field, particularly in relation to notions of mental health?
  • 29. More entangled and connected than previous models More open and porous, less bounded More complex, more individualised A new form of holism – but an opaque one Imagining a microbial subject
  • 30. Towards a microbial humanities Some philosophical challenges of microbiome research: • ‘Me’ or ‘us’? - what are the cultural and philosophical implications of symbiosis, co-development and co-existence with microbes? • Microbes on the mind - How might integrating our gut microbiome into our sense of self change our self-understanding? • Microbial culture - what might a microbiopolitics based on cooperation rather than control look like?