Hygiene Beyond the Sanitised Self: Abjection, Human Microbiota and the Ecological Medical Imaginary

Research output: Contribution to conference (non-published works)Abstract


Since Pasteur’s 19th century formulation of germ theory, images of hygiene in the public domain have evoked the abject to ensure generalised vigilance towards the transmission of pathogenic microbiota. Yet the etymological origins of hygiene as ‘the art of health’, is challenged by more recent studies into the human microbiome that have captured the public imagination (Hooks et al 2018: 24). This paper will explore how neuroscientific and microbiological studies of human microbiota invite a re-imagining of hygiene that decentres the sanitised human self in favour of ecological images of health and well-being. Departing from psychoanalytic, poststructural and neuroscientific modes of enquiry, the paper will highlight the role that contemporary arts and culture can play in reshaping the medical imaginary, building upon Malabou’s proposition that any ‘biological revolution’ necessarily transforms the symbolic order ‘where life makes sense.’ (Malabou 2016: 202-03).
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 4 Dec 2019
EventCSAA Conference 2019: Cultural Transformations - University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia
Duration: 4 Dec 20196 Dec 2019


ConferenceCSAA Conference 2019
Abbreviated titleCSAA 2019
Internet address


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