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Speaker: Beth Conklin, Associate Professor, and Department Chair


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Microbiosociality: Sensory Ecologies of Ritual Life in Amazonia

In the wake of recent research showing that most of the cells and genes in a human body are non-human, there has been an explosion of interest in microbes’ roles in social life. For anthropologists, attention to microbial relations can illuminate how meanings, materials, memories, and emotions entwine as human and non-human beings co-produce and co-configure local life-worlds. Microbes make themselves known through bioactivity–the responsiveness and material transformations of bodies and substances perceived in sensations of smell, taste, and changes in physical forms and properties. Focusing on the Wari’ of western Brazil, this talk explores how a micro-biosocial view invites rethinking of classic issues such as animacy, alterity, commensality, and symbolic-sensory dynamics in beer-drinking parties, funeral cannibalism, and death-rituals that shape anthropogenic forest landscapes.

Sponsored by: Department of Anthropology, and Center for Global Inquiry + Innovation