Can Microbes Give Gifts?

by Alex Nading I find it ironic that theory, which is the epitome of cooperation and togetherness, can deeply divide people who spend their entire time thinking about cooperation and togetherness. – Ed Yong, I Contain Multitudes Shortly after I finished reading I Contain Multitudes, I attended an interdisciplinary meeting of microbiome ecologists, evolutionary biologists, […]

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Writing the Microbiome

by Amber Benezra Imagine that you really like ice cream. You like it so much that you spend years learning about it—you become an expert on ice cream ingredients and how they chemically combine, you do fieldwork in ice creameries, living with, working with, and intensively studying ice cream makers, you taste and love every […]

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Radiating Microbes and Fuzzy Anthropologies

by Erin Koch As humans in our household, my wife and I are collectively outnumbered as a species by dogs, cats, and an aquatic turtle. I write from my home office in the company of one of our pups. She is tired from morning walks, eating neighborhood flora and soils, and monitoring our backyard for […]

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Special Series: Sensorial Engagements with a Toxic World

Curated by Chisato Fukuda, University of Wisconsin-Madison We dwell in an atmosphere of uncertainty. From visible ambient matters like smog to odorless contaminants from radiation, toxic conditions force us to continually adapt to, resist, and make sense of the spaces we inhabit. Bodies are exposed to an array of materials, from particulates, chemicals, and pathogens that […]

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The Incinerator Does Not Exist: Sensory Engagement with Toxic Potentials

By Chloe Ahmann, George Washington University On the streets of Curtis Bay, a community in south Baltimore, talk of the local trash incinerator is pervasive. People complain about its pungent odor, lament its effects on air quality, and worry about its ties to respiratory ailments. Amidst an already congested industrial landscape, where the cumulative effects of […]

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Attending to the Senses in Toxic Exposure

By Amelia Fiske, Christian-Albrechts-Universität In his Quito office, Camilo was showing me slides from a presentation he delivered at Brown University a few years before to explain how people in Amazon come in contact with the industrial chemicals used in oil production. A trained biologist, he lived in the Amazon in the 1990s and has since […]

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Radioactive Contamination and Citizen Science after Fukushima

By Maxime Polleri, York University Rising a whopping 13 microsieverts per hour, it took a single step for my Geiger counter to go berserk. Telling a different story about this seemingly undistinguished patch of grass, my radiation detection monitor lit up like a Christmas tree. I was walking around Iitate, a small Japanese village deeply affected […]

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A Sense for Chemical Care

By Ali Kenner, Drexel University When anthropologists and other social scientists attend to chemical and industrial risks, we often focus on how toxics produce illness and disease through exposures that are sensorial, community-based, and derived from infrastructure. Embodied sense for chemicals has also informed different kinds of social and political action, a phenomenon well documented […]

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A Fight to Breathe

By Chisato Fukuda, University of Wisconsin-Madison “WE ARE SUFFOCATING!” “WE ARE SUFFOCATING!” “WAKE UP AND SMELL THE SMOG!” On January 28th 2017, thousands of protesters chanted and marched through Mongolia’s capital city, enduring -27°C temperatures to demonstrate against air pollution. The protest movement, called Booj Ukhlee (Боож Үхлээ), which has a double meaning, “we are suffocating” […]

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Chemicals Sit in Places

By Alex Nading, University of Edinburgh Anthropological attention to sensory engagements with chemicals promise to expand and enrich medical anthropology’s notion of place. At a time when global health and the Anthropocene are (for lots of good reasons) in vogue, the essays in this collection ask us to dwell in specificity. Toxicity resists standardization and toxic […]

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