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Unruly Microbes – Epidemics, Infections, and Ecologies of Change in Historical Perspective

Centre for the History of Medicine and Disease

Durham University

From spillover diseases to re-emerging infections to rising rates of antimicrobial resistance, stories of unruly microbes have proliferated daily conversation in recent years. These serious and continuing threats to human and nonhuman health fly in the face of triumphalist narratives of epidemiological transition and global disease eradication (Bellamy Foster et al., 2021). The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the extent to which these human-microbial interactions are mediated by ecological change widely construed, from urban and rural land use change driven by global commerce patterns to shifts in internal microbial populations within bodies. While scholars have developed many frames through which to think about the embeddedness of disease in ecological change historically and in the present, these stories remain on the margins of more traditional biomedical studies, and are often siloed into different disciplinary homes. This conference seeks to bring together scholars across disciplines to think through the relationship of epidemics to human-driven environmental change across time and space. Paper and panel proposals are welcome from researchers working on topics widely related to this theme. Examples of possible intersecting themes include:

· Capitalism, land use change, and infectious disease.

· Colonialism, ecological change, and infectious disease

· Urban ecology and sanitation

· Zoonoses and multispecies studies of disease

· Agricultural systems and human-animal diseases

· Hospitals-as-ecologies and histories of infection control

· Histories of epidemic and infection control programs

· Changing conceptions of human-microbial relationships (the Holobiont, Pathobiont, mutualisms)

Abstracts of between 300-500 words on the themes above and related topics are welcome. We are happy to consider co-authored submissions and panel proposals, especially those that include scholars working from multiple disciplines.

Please direct abstracts and any questions to Dr Emily Webster (emily.webster@durham.ac.uk) by March 17, 2023.