HASS Workshop: Visions of Microbial Health: A Conversation between Biologists, Anthropologists and Artists

Home / News and Events / Events / HASS Workshop: Visions of Microbial Health: A Conversation between Biologists, Anthropologists and Artists

Singapore University of Technology and Design
Canadian Institute For Advanced Research
Sponsor: ASEAN Microbiome Nutrition Centre

From viruses that cause zoonotic pandemics to the gut microbes that condition metabolism inside the body, microbes play crucial roles in human health and disease. Increasingly powerful scientific techniques are bringing to light the microbes inside and outside of our bodies and revealing how microorganisms connect individuals and even cross species.

But what to do about the microbes that we live with is a question that cannot be answered by microbiological tools alone. The human impact on the environment, including the consumption of antibiotics that alter the microbiome or the deforestation that increases the risk of emerging pathogens, demands historical and cultural analysis. Calls for closure of wet markets or culling of infected livestock in order to control pathogen spillover raise important questions about cultural differences in human-nonhuman relationships, the evaluation of risk, and the valuation of nonhuman life. Artists and anthropologists provide new tools to help us see the many possibilities of human life amidst the microbiome. After a century of intensive antibiotic use in healthcare and the livestock industry, can we imagine co-existence with microbes? How can we increase public understanding of the microbiome and its impacts on health and environment? What new alliances can be envisioned between microbial cultures and human cultures?

This workshop will initiate a conversation between biologists, anthropologists and artists to discuss venues of critical thinking on relations between microbes and health in a rapidly changing planet. The meeting will provide inspiration for an exhibition project and a collaborative white paper that aim for a reflexive account of microbial cultures.

Dates: 12-13 December 2023
Venue: Lecture Theatre 5 (Building 2, Level 5, 02.505)
Singapore University of Technology and Design
8 Somapah Road, 487372
Contact: Jia Haw Loh (jiahaw_loh@sutd.edu.sg)
Click here to register

Day 1: Food Microbes and Health – Ambivalent Venues

8:30 am – 9:00 am Registration
9:00 am – 9:15 am Welcome Session and Opening Remarks
Lyle Fearnley and Frédéric Keck
9:15 am – 12:15 pm Session I: Animal Markets and Microbial Risks
Chair: Michael M.J. Fischer (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
  • Malik Peiris (Hong Kong University): Live Poultry Markets as an Interface for Zoonotic Spillover
  • Nan Nan & Frédéric Keck (Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris): Regulating Wet Markets in China during the Covid-19 pandemic
  • Liz Chee (Hong Kong University of Science and Technology): Introducing Mao’s Bestiary
  • Lyle Fearnley (Singapore University of Technology and Design): Signs of Safety: Microbes, Communication, and the Contested Risk of Live Poultry
12:15 pm – 1:15 pm Lunch
1:15 pm – 4:15 pm Session 2: Host Microbiota, Food and Human Health
Chair: Anusha Jayaraman (National Neuroscience Institute)
  • Philippe Sansonetti (Pasteur Institute, Paris): Who Invented the Microbiome?
  • Sven Petterson (ASEAN Microbiome Nutrition Centre): Gut Microbes, Food Consumption and Metabolic Homeostasis
  • Yulan Wang (LKC School of Medicine, NTU): Microbes & Bile acids
  • Jamie Lorimer (Oxford University): The Probiotic Turn and the Emergence of Post-Pasteurian Approaches to Human and Environmental Health
  • Dhiraj Kumar Nainani (Nanyang Technological University): Notes from the Underground: The Emerging Spatio-legality of Wastewater Surveillance
4:30 pm – 5:30 pm Open Discussion with Directed Questions
6:00 pm Bus to Dinner for Speakers

Day 2: Food Microbes and Health – Images of Fear and Hope

9:00 am – 12:00 pm Session 3 : Biosecurity Borderlands and Strategies for Immunity
Chair: Alwyn Tan (NParks)
  • Linfa Wang (Duke-NUS): Learning from Bats in Balancing Immune Defense and Tolerance
  • Ludek Broz (Institute of Ethnology, Prague): Veterinarization of borderlands: African Swine Fever virus at the Czech, German, Polish tripoint
  • Ray Chan (Exeter University): Post-ASF Chinese Corporate Pig Farms: Pathogenic Risk, Skin Microbiome and Toxicity of Labour Health
  • Jack Greatrex (Nanyang Technological University): ‘Malaya Disease’: Deploying Viruses from Malaysian Plantations to South Pacific Islands, 1960s and 1970s
  • Zohar Lederman (Hong Kong University): The Ethics of Cross-Species Immunity
12:00 pm – 1:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm – 4:00 pm Session 4 : Critical Imagination for the Future of Microbial Health
Chair: Karin G. Oen (Nanyang Technological University)
  • Valeria Burgio (Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia): Representing the Microbiome: Trees, Networks and Maps
  • Syaiful Garibaldi (artist, Indonesia)
  • Isabelle Desjeux (artist, Singapore): Wild Bread
  • Wiyu Wahono (art collector, Indonesia): Appreciating and Preserving Media Art in our Science- Technology Era
  • Chu Hao Pei (artist, Singapore): Growing Rice, Growing Taste
4:15 pm – 5:15 pm Open Discussion with Directed Questions
5:15 pm – 5:30 pm Closing Remarks and Future Perspectives
Lyle Fearnley and Frédéric Keck

HASS Workshop: Visions of Microbial Health: A Conversation between Biologists, Anthropologists and Artists