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Summer School Social Study of Microbes

12. Juni – 14. Juni 2024 

Sum­mer School at Cen­tre for the Social Study of Microbes Helsin­ki, Finnland

„Annu­al Sum­mer School on Microbes”
Cen­tre for the Social Study of Microbes (CSSM), Helsinki
12–14 June 2024
Dead­line: 31.03.2024

The CSSM is a hub for social sci­en­tists and artists con­duct­ing research on human-micro­bial rela­tions. Microbes are not only bio­log­i­cal enti­ties but also shape, and are shaped by, our social worlds. The Cen­tre aims to explore how rela­tion­ships with microbes raise pro­found chal­lenges for social the­o­ry, which demand new social sci­en­tif­ic lan­guage and method­olo­gies for describ­ing and explain­ing the com­plex and entwined rela­tion­ships between human and non­hu­man ani­mals, microbes, and the envi­ron­ment. Not only is this work the­o­ret­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed, it is key to devel­op­ing sus­tain­able meth­ods of plan­e­tary co-exis­tence in the Anthropocene. 

At present, research on microbes – whether in social sci­ences or in life sci­ences and bio­med­i­cine – is under­go­ing dra­mat­ic changes. A boom of micro­bio­me research since the ear­ly 2000s has shown that microbes are vast­ly more abun­dant in the envi­ron­ment and inside our bod­ies than pre­vi­ous­ly thought. In con­trast to a Pas­teuri­an notion of bac­te­ria as mere­ly path­o­gen­ic, microbes are seen to have impor­tant sup­port­ing roles for health and well-being. Deficit of microbes is now asso­ci­at­ed with every­thing from men­tal health to autoim­mune dis­eases. There is also increas­ing aware­ness of microbes’ vital role in dif­fer­ent ecosys­tems and eco­log­i­cal rela­tions to the extent that imbal­anced micro­bial ecolo­gies are asso­ci­at­ed with glob­al warm­ing, soil deple­tion, and bio­di­ver­si­ty loss.

Recent con­tri­bu­tions from social sci­ences and phi­los­o­phy of biol­o­gy have chal­lenged the one-sided def­i­n­i­tion of microbes as path­o­gen­ic, propos­ing the advent of a ‘post-Pas­teuri­an age’ that takes into account their mul­ti­va­lent and con­text-spe­cif­ic nature. This shift in under­stand­ing human-microbe rela­tions is push­ing the emer­gence of new social forms such as fer­men­ta­tion, often anchored in cen­tu­ry-old prac­tices. These devel­op­ments high­light that microbes are not bio­log­i­cal objects only, and that we lack meth­ods and con­cepts that can account for the com­plex, mul­ti-scalar sets of prac­tices that char­ac­terise human-microbe relations.

The PhD school will last for three days 12–14 June 2024. The first two days will con­sist of group work, includ­ing the pre­sen­ta­tion and dis­cus­sion of pre-sub­mit­ted man­u­scripts, an inter­na­tion­al keynote lec­ture, and gen­er­al dis­cus­sions about the social study of microbes. On the third day, the par­tic­i­pants will take part in the CSSM Day when the expand­ed CSSM team comes togeth­er for inter­ac­tive ses­sions and con­ver­sa­tions regard­ing microbes.

We wel­come appli­ca­tions from PhD stu­dents inter­est­ed in the social study of microbes. Appli­cants from the Glob­al South and mem­bers of minori­ties are espe­cial­ly wel­come to apply.

Appli­ca­tions should contain:

- Cov­er let­ter with a state­ment of inter­est (max 1 page)
– Abstract of PhD project, includ­ing a reflec­tion on how the research project engages with the­o­ret­i­cal and/or method­olog­i­cal devel­op­ments for
the social study of microbes (max 2 pages)
– CV (max 2 pages)

Accept­ed par­tic­i­pants will be asked to sub­mit a paper or chap­ter draft (max 8.000 words) by May 29, 2024.
The appli­ca­tion should be sent as PDF to by March 31, 2024.
Suc­cess­ful appli­cants will be noti­fied lat­est by April 15, 2024.

Accom­mo­da­tion dur­ing the PhD school, lunch­es and the con­fer­ence din­ner, and trav­el to Helsin­ki are ful­ly cov­ered by CSSM. Please indi­cate in the cov­er let­ter if you do not need such eco­nom­ic support.
For more infor­ma­tion, please con­tact: