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Sounding the Limits of LifeEssays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond$
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Stefan Helmreich

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780691164809

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691164809.001.0001

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Homo Microbis

Homo Microbis

Species, Race, Sex, and the Human Microbiome

(p.62) Chapter 6 Homo Microbis
Sounding the Limits of Life

Stefan Helmreich

Sophia Roosth

Michele Friedner

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines some of the celebratory accounts that have gathered around the human microbiome—the ecology of microbes that exist in human bodies, with a particular focus on how it is infused with older idioms of “sex” and “race.” Dissecting the idea of the species, the chapter challenges some of the new materialisms in science studies that, in the name of attending to the agency of the material world, take scientific stories as literal truths, as exhaustive of what microbial life and other material phenomena might be and mean. It argues that “biology” does not speak for itself, either about humans or nonhumans. Rather, biology is a historically crafted discipline, and its materials come thickly figured and configured by the histories and cultures through which they are imagined and inhabited.

Keywords:   human microbiome, microbes, sex, race, species, microbial life, biology

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