Performativity and a microbe: Exploring Mycobacterium bovis and the political ecologies of bovine tuberculosis

Robinson, P.A. (2018) Performativity and a microbe: Exploring Mycobacterium bovis and the political ecologies of bovine tuberculosis. BioSocieties.

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Mycobacterium bovis, the bacterium responsible for causing bovine tuberculosis (bTB) in cattle, displays what I call ‘microbial performativity’. Like many other lively disease-causing microorganisms, it has an agency which is difficult to contain, and there is a need for fresh thinking on the challenges of dealing with this slippery and indeterminate microbe. As a practising veterinary scientist who side-stepped mid-career into a parallel training in the social sciences to view bTB from an alternative perspective, I create an interdisciplinary coming-together where veterinary science converges with a political ecology of (animal) health influenced by science and technology studies (STS) and social science and humanities scholarship on performativity. This suitably hybridized nexus creates a place to consider the ecologies of a pathogen which could be considered as life out of control. I consider what this means for efforts to eradicate this disease through combining understandings from the published scientific literature with qualitative interview-based fieldwork with farmers, veterinarians and others involved in the statutory bTB eradication programme in a high incidence region of the UK. This study demonstrates the value of life scientists turning to the social sciences to re-view their familiar professional habitus—challenging assumptions, and offering alternative perspectives on complex problems.

Item Type: Article
Keywords: Bacterium, Bovine tuberculosis, Microbial ethnography, Performativity, Political ecology of health, Veterinary science
Divisions: Animal Production, Welfare and Veterinary Sciences (to 31.07.20)
Depositing User: Ms Kath Osborn
Date Deposited: 22 Jun 2018 13:26
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2019 04:10

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