Race and indigeneity in human microbiome science: microbiomisation and the historiality of otherness

  1. Núñez Casal, Andrea
History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences

ISSN: 0391-9714 1742-6316

Ano de publicación: 2024

Volume: 46

Número: 2

Tipo: Artigo

DOI: 10.1007/S40656-024-00614-W GOOGLE SCHOLAR lock_openAcceso aberto editor

Outras publicacións en: History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences


This article reformulates Stephan Helmreich´s the ¨microbiomisation of race¨ as the historiality of otherness in the foundations of human microbiome science. Through the lens of my ethnographic fieldwork of a transnational community of microbiome scientists that conducted a landmark human microbiome research on indigenous microbes and its affiliated and first personalised microbiome initiative, the American Gut Project, I follow and trace the key actors, experimental systems and onto-epistemic claims in the emergence of human microbiome science a decade ago. In doing so, I show the links between the reinscription of race, comparative research on the microbial genetic variation of human populations and the remining of bioprospected data for personalised medicine. In these unpredictable research movements, the microbiome of non-Western peoples and territories is much more than a side project or a specific approach within the field: it constitutes the nucleus of its experimental system, opening towards subsequent and cumulative research processes and knowledge production in human microbiome science. The article demonstrates that while human microbiome science is articulated upon the microbial ‘makeup’ of non-wester(nised) communities, societies, and locales, its results and therapeutics are only applicable to medical conditions affecting rich nations (i.e., inflammatory, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases). My reformulation of ¨microbiomisation of race¨ as the condition of possibility of human microbiome science reveals that its individual dimension is sustained by microbial DNA data from human populations through bioprospecting practices and gains meaning through personalised medicine initiatives, informal online networks of pseudoscientific and commodified microbial-related evidence.

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