AAA/CASCA Executive Program Committee
Executive Session - Oral Presentation Session
In this talk I will present two case studies of how human conflict resets biology through socio-ecological pathways. The first draws on collaborative work done in our interdisciplinary research collective that examines how the current conflict in the Middle East may be driving antibiotic resistance through previously unknown pathways. This work was triggered by anthropological research that drew attention to the potential role of heavy metals in wounds and in the environment. The action of a little known bacteria — Acinetobacter baumannii — in archiving, assembling, and exporting antibiotic resistance genes provides both a molecular and social mechanism for producing local biological differences that can subsequently alter biological parameters worldwide. The second examines the worrisome resurgence of Ebola in the DRC, addresses controversial theories to explain its re-emergence and spread, and explores the role of anthropologists in finding a vaccine for the disease. Based on fieldwork in the 2014 epidemic in Liberia and the 2019 epidemic in DRC, I explore the growing conflation of humanitarianism and military intervention and its biological implications. My overall argument is that we are approaching the end, not only of antibiotic usage, but of eradication as a paradigm for addressing infectious diseases. This is precisely because interventions based on a linear « cause-effect » epistemology produce paradoxical and largely unpredictable bio-ecological consequences with lasting effects.