The Social Study of Microbes Group.

We are a diverse group of social scientists with passion for microbes and questions of social justice. Inspired by Science and Technology Studies as well as Feminist Theory, our work experiments novel ways of producing knowledge with and about microbes.


The global proliferation of antimicrobial resistance, anthropogenic environmental change, and now the COVID-19 global pandemic are gestures of the urgency to find new ways of living in a more sustainable and socially just way with each other,with other animals, plants and our microbial ancestors. The aim of our research group is to produce fine-grained analysis of human-animal-microbial relationships that can inspire change. From the global governance of antimicrobial resistance and practices with microbial materials; through biotechnical practices with humans and microbes; to traditional and contemporary fermentation practices, our research projects and practices are thus interdisciplinary focused, geographically dispersed, and multi-scalar. The diverse research backgrounds of our people, spanning gender studies, development studies, health sociology, technoscience, philosophy, anthropology, new materialism, and the medical and natural sciences, combine to produce a rich ecology of approaches and practices to developing new forms of knowledge about and with microbes. Our collective aim is to develop novel theories and methodologies for producing knowledge about and with microbes. These include combining ethnography with artistic and performative practices, and public fermentation workshops to gain a deeper, more sensual and embodied perspective of our shared lives with microbes.

Recommended Reading

ALIEN OCEAN: Anthropological Voyages in Microbial Seas

by Stefan Helmreich (2009)

Alien Ocean immerses readers in worlds being newly explored by marine biologists, worlds usually out of sight and reach: the deep sea, the microscopic realm, and oceans beyond national boundaries. Working alongside scientists at sea and in labs in Monterey Bay, Hawai'i, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, and the Sargasso Sea and at undersea volcanoes in the eastern Pacific, Stefan Helmreich charts how revolutions in genomics, bioinformatics, and remote sensing have pressed marine biologists to see the sea as animated by its smallest inhabitants: marine microbes. Thriving in astonishingly extreme conditions, such microbes have become key figures in scientific and public debates about the origin of life, climate change, biotechnology, and even the possibility of life on other worlds.