Decentring humans? Imagining a microbially inspired sociology
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A circuitous intellectual path leads to this book. Its author, Myra Hird, a professor of sociology at Queen’s University in Kingston (Ontario), casually picked up a copy of a book she had never heard of—What is Sex? (Margulis and Sagan, 1997)—and eventually took a sabbatical in the lab of the main author to learn more and write The Origins of Sociable Life (OSL). The connections to Hird’s usual interests, which include feminism, social theory, queer theory and psychoanalytic theory, may not seem obvious. The charm and success of the book is that it makes these connections for readers who might not have much biological knowledge and who would not normally be interested in acquiring any. A stronger test of the book’s insights is whether it can change the perspective of thinkers who are oriented to human culture rather than biological life in all its diversity and complexity. I will discuss the steps Hird takes to link microbiology and sociology, first from a contextualizing point of...