South Asia

Organized Panel Session

1 - The Apparatus of Enmity: Microbes, Antibiotics Resistance, 'Culture'

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Rudraksha, Lower Ground Floor

What does the future of antibiotic-resistance look like? A phenomenon in time described by the WHO as an emergent “post-antibiotic era – in which common infections and minor injuries can kill” (WHO Report: 2014), antibiotic-resistance is a contemporary terrain of technique and anticipation marshaling human, microbial and zootic populations located across healthcare, industrial-agricultural, and biotechnological realms that summon the widespread 20th century successes of antibiotics. To confront the cultural and technical legacy - generations of antibiotic failure in the 21st century, to imagine its catastrophic futures, merits a foray into the zone of the microbiology laboratory — a late-modern space of visualization and judgment geared towards painstakingly culturing pathogenic microbes, testing their sensitivities against a range of antimicrobial chemo-therapeutics, and awaiting the general failure of antibiotics in culture. Based on fieldwork conducted in one of Delhi’s premier, commercial microbiology laboratories in 2016, and pursuing a larger interest in techniques of visualizing and intercepting recalcitrant bodies — both human and microbial — that swarm the terrain of antibiotic failure, this paper examines human imaginaries of threat across entangled species worlds. Summoning a Schmittian elaboration of politics, this entanglement involves perpetual technoscientific distinctions between friends and enemies—conceptualized as an ‘apparatus of enmity’ that is concurrently central to micro biopolitical practices of the laboratory, and now confronting its ongoing ruination. An ethnographic account of the laboratory clarifies the labor involved in diagnoses of antimicrobial-resistance and helps navigate and forecast larger dilemmas of antibiotics - use in culture, when seen through the lens of technical faith, localized threat, and unfolding planetary contamination.

Rijul Kochhar

Massachusetts Institute of Technology, United States


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1 - The Apparatus of Enmity: Microbes, Antibiotics Resistance, 'Culture'

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