From immunity to collaboration microbes, waste, and antitoxic politics

Amy Zhang

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    In this paper I trace the emergence of a more-than-human antitoxic politics where microbes are cultivated agents of environmental remediation. Following a successful anti-incinerator protest, a group of urban waste activists in China turned to the brewing of eco-enzymes, a fermented solution made from organic waste, as a means of fortifying the health of bodies, homes, and their local environment. I illustrate how the material effects of microbes catalyze a grassroots response of experimental speculation among middle-class waste activists in response to China’s polluted environment. Following feminist science and technology studies scholars and the work of Roberto Esposito, I argue that eco-enzyme brewers engage in a microbiopolitics of immunity and collaboration to reconstitute human and nonhuman collectives in acts of cooperation and care for the environment. Eco-enzymes brewing illustrates how the uncertain effects of microbial transformation can sustain an experimental inquiry into the modes of ecological action that are possible under China’s authoritarian politics and polluted landscape.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)S298-S310
    JournalCurrent Anthropology
    Issue numberS24
    StatePublished - Aug 2021

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Archaeology
    • Anthropology
    • Archaeology


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