AMR requires us to open our research agenda to think about the ways human life is entangled with microbes, animals, plants and the environment. AMR poses tricky questions about human exceptionalism and pushes us to consider how we begin to study our human interactions with - and within - complex ecologies.
AMR requires us to open our research agenda to think about the ways human life is entangled with microbes, animals, plants and the environment. AMR poses tricky questions about human exceptionalism and pushes us to consider how we begin to study our human interactions with – and within – complex ecologies.
Our relationships, for example, with our animals – from pets to livestock – bring us into contact with the microbial worlds inside these animal companions. Seemingly mundane questions about how we care for animals, where they sleep, whether we consider them family or food (or both), and what we choose to inject them with, are all components that shape our entanglement with the microbial world and the conditions of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) today.
Social scientists working in the field of biosecure farming, for example, detail the ways that farmers actively work with, rather than against, complex microbial environments, in the ‘making of safe life’ for pigs and humans. Hinchliffe and Ward (2014) outline the kinds of situated knowledge and practices that vets, breeders and farmers deploy in order to raise healthy pigs, and how this in-depth knowledge is “obscured and even endangered when biosecurity is reduced to the simple protection of disease-free livestock” (136).
This approach in anthropology is often called ‘multispecies ethnography’. It is an approach that aims to de-centre the human and instead, prioritize entanglements of human, animal, microbial, and environmental landscapes. In other words, we must take the lives of other species, besides humans, seriously. In doing so, multi-species ethnography seeks to contribute to better understanding how we live with and against other species (e.g. mammals, insects, fungi and microbes), their relations with humans, and the ways that economic, political and cultural processes shape our lives together.
Drawing on the multispecies literature and some of the concepts it offers, will provide fruitful avenues for studying the many ways that antimicrobial resistance comes into being, is spread, and the multiple species that may be involved in these processes. Multi-species ethnography offers anthropology of science and interdisciplinary research more broadly, a way to empirically explore the contingency of human-nonhuman-antibiotic-microbe relations in the production and movement of AMR, the specificity of contexts where it arises and the different responses mobilised.Share
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