The Virosphere: Learning to Live With the Unknown

In this lecture, the Medical Humanities and the Environmental Humanities meet. Associate Professor Eben Kirksey from the Alfred Deakin Institute at Deakin University, Australia, will introduce us to the "virosphere".

Compiled photo. On the left Eben Kirksey, on the right is a model with viral shape

On the left: Eben Kirksey. On the right: Viral shapes. 

Viruses often inspire fear. The history of virology has been driven by anxiety about disease and death. But, new research suggests that most viruses are benign, mutualistic, or symbiotic. Scholars in medical anthropology and the environmental humanities have an opportunity to engage with the virosphere--the totality of viral biodiversity which swirls around us in an unseen and largely unknown realm. Since cloudy epistemologies and ontologies structure our current relationship with the virosphere, perhaps it is easy to be afraid of forces that we can barely understand. Ecological interactions with mind-boggling complexity could suddenly shift, destroying out life support systems. The unruly realm of viral biodiversity could generate a new pandemic at any moment. But, what if we instead approached the virosphere with curiosity and wonder. Is it possible to empathize with a virus?

About the presenter

Eben Kirksey is an American anthropologist who specializes on science and justice. The Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, hosted Kirksey for the 2019-2020 academic year, where he finished his latest book: The Mutant Project.

About the event

The event is organized by Ursula Münster (Director at the Oslo School of Environmental Humanities) and Daniel Münster (Associate Professor at the Department of Community Medicine and Global Health). 

Tags: Environmental Humanities, Medical Humanities, Ecology
Published May 2, 2022 5:39 PM - Last modified Oct. 3, 2022 11:33 AM