Panel 4: Antibiotic science, technology and infrastructures
This final session in the Antibiotics in Society panel series looks at antibiotics in terms of science, technology and infrastructures. Professor Nik Brown, Dr Catherine Will, Professor Komatra Chuengsatiansup and Dr Charlotte Brives present research concerned with a diverse array of environments, ranging from hospital architectures to Thai citrus orchards, and actors including Mycoplasma genitalium and phages.
As described by the session chair Professor Clare Chandler, together these talks offer stories of contradictions; gaps between ‘ideal worlds’ – the formalised worlds of science and technology – and implemented ‘in practice’ worlds of sociotechnical tinkering. They illustrate how different strands of knowledge are produced – in clinical settings, in the community, in research laboratories – and woven and rewoven together to produce ideas of what is ‘normal’.
Charlotte Brives’ concept of pluribiosis – the practical recognition of the spectrum of relationships between entities that often self-transformed by these relationships – has resonance across the presentations. In drawing attention to the situated character of each entity and relationship, pluribioisis calls for caution for any AMR solutions that are intended to be massive and overlook the situated nature of knowledge.
As infrastructure, when antibiotics are removed from a situation, perhaps due to the threat of antimicrobial resistance, their influence continues to shape the hole they leave behind. By recognising how antibiotics act as onto-epistemological infrastructure, with their characteristics shaping ways of knowing, it can help us understand the challenges faced when seeking to introduce alternatives such as phages.