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The Multispecies Salon: Environmental Humanities Dialogues

The Multispecies Salon: Environmental Humanities DialoguesDuring the fall semester, the Princeton Environmental Institute is hosting a series of lunchtime discussions organized and led by Eben Kirksey, Visiting Professor of Anthropology and the 2015-16 Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities. The discussions will orbit around two key questions: Which beings flourish, and which fail, when natural and cultural worlds intermingle and collide? In the aftermath of disasters—in blasted landscapes that have been transformed by multiple catastrophes—what are the possibilities of biocultural hope?

The Multispecies Salon was initially an art exhibit that picked up new elements, like infectious spores, as it moved across the United States—from San Francisco, to New Orleans, to New York City.

Duke University Press published a collection of essays and recipes gleaned from the The Multispecies Salon as a book in 2012.

Due to limited space, the Multispecies Salon events are restricted to members of the University Community, except by special request. Reading materials will be circulated to registrants in advance of the individual gatherings.

Spring 2016 Multispecies Salon Events


Two-Day Conference - Gut Reactions: The Microbiome and Human Nature

March 30th-31st, Butler College, Studio '34 Cafe

Gut Reactions: The Microbiome and Human Nature

Microbes living in human bodies can influence processes like digestion, immunity, and even cognition. Human nature is being reframed as a multispecies relationship. Departing from the fact that our bodies are environments for bacteria, fungi, and protists, we will ask: How has the human been shaped by microbial companions? What does the microbial geography of our bodies, our homes, and our pets look like? What are the political and economic implications of sensing and surveying invisible life? As technological and medical interventions reconfigure the microbiome, how is this shaping the future of the human species?

Required reading for Gut Reactions: The Microbiome and Human Nature:


 Please RSVP and register HERE >>

 You will be able to watch broadcast of this entire event on MediaCentral:

Wednesday, March 30th

Keynote (4:30-6pm): “The Wild Life of Our Bodies: Geography, Discoveries, New Insights, and Persistent Ignorance.”
Rob Dunn (North Carolina State University)
Dialog with: Jamie Lorimer (Oxford), Eben Kirksey (Princeton/UNSW), Deborah Heath (Lewis & Clark), and Sophia Strosberg (Minnesota)

Art interventions (6-7pm):
Anna Dumitriu (Brighton, UK), “The Hypersymbiont Salon”
Alex May (Brighton, UK), “Sequence” and/or “Super-Organism”
Kathy High (RPI), “Waste Matters: You Are My Future”

Microbially mediated wine and cheese reception, selected by Heather Paxson (MIT) and Deborah Heath (Lewis & Clark). This will be the closing reception for the Emergent Ecologies exhibit curated by the students in the Freshman Seminar, “Environmental Art: Thinking, Making, Dreaming.”

Thursday, March 31st

8:30, Continental Breakfast

9-10:30am Human Microbial Ecologies
Panelists: Mohamed Abou Donia (Princeton), Perig Pitrou (College de France), and Jamie Lorimer (Oxford).
Jamie Lorimer (Oxford), “Reworming: A Rewilding Experiment,” 15 min talk.
​Perig Pitrou (College de France), “Invisible You and Micropia: Us, Them and the Ecosystem” 15 min talk.
Discussant/provocateur: Anand Pandian (John Hopkins)

Reading: Donia, Mohamed S. (2014) “A Systematic Analysis of Biosynthetic Gene Clusters in the Human Microbiome Reveals a Common Family of Antibiotics” Cell, 158 (6): 1402-1414.

Coffee break, 10:30-11:00

11am-12:30 pm Microbiopolitics & Missing Microbes
Panelists: Heather Paxson (MIT), Sophia Strosberg (Minnesota), and Rob Dunn (North Carolina State University).
Sophia Strosberg (Minnesota), “Human Microbiome Research: The Relevance of a Rights-Based Framework,” 15 min talk.
Kathy High (RPI), “Waste Matters: You Are My Future,” 15 min talk.
Discussants/provocateur: Carolyn Rouse (Anthropology, Princeton).
Reading: Paxson, Heather 2014 Microbiopolitics. In The Multispecies Salon. E. Kirksey, ed. Pp. 115-121. Durham: Duke University Press.

12:00-1:30pm Lunch in Butler College for Invited Panelists and Participants

1:30-2:30pm Microbes and Mind Control
Panelists: Roman Stilling (University College Cork), Alex May (London), and Anna Dumitriu (London).
Roman Stilling, “The Gut-Brain Axis,” 15 min talk.
Anna Dumitriu, “Hypersymbiotics, Faecal Transplants and The Romantic Disease” 15 min talk.
Discussant/provocateur: Jesse Printz
Reading: Stiling, R. T Dinan, and F. Cryan (2014) “Microbial Genes, Brain, & Behaviour: Epigenetic Regulation of the Gut-Brain AxisGenes, Brain, and Behavior. 13: 69-86.
Reading: Prinz, Jesse (2006) Gut Reactions: A Perceptual Theory of Emotion. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

2:30-3:00pm Human-Microbe Dynamics and the Environment
Panelists: Deborah Heath (Lewis & Clark) and Eben Kirksey (Princeton/UNSW)
Deborah Heath, “Wine, Grapes, & Multispecies Assemblages in the Face of Climate Change,” 15 min talk.
​Eben Kirksey, “The Winogradsky Hack” 15 min talk.

3:00-4:00pm Concluding Roundtable Discussion
Panelists: Eben Kirksey, Deborah Heath, Jesse Printz, Roman Stilling, Alex May, Anna Dumitriu, Carolyn Rouse, Heather Paxson, Kathy High, Sophia Strosberg, Rob Dunn, Anand Pandian, Mohamed Abou Donia, Perig Pitrou, and Jamie Lorimer.

Chemical Species II: Alchemy, Gold, and Water

February 26, Friday: The Multispecies Salon presents, Chemical Species II: Alchemy, Gold, and Water, featuring a discussion with Sarah Knuckey (Columbia University), Joshua Fisher (Columbia University), and with Jerry K. Jacka (University of Colorado at Boulder) as a virtual guest. Discussant: Nicholas Shapiro (Chemical Heritage Foundation).

Lunch & discussion: 12:30pm-2:00pm, Guyot 100.

Chemical Species II: Alchemy, Gold, and Water

The “chemical turn” in ethnography and the environmental humanities has led some to blend physical science and human rights methods to understand how pollution moves through ecosystems and human communities. Focusing on the Barrick Gold mine in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, this event will explore what Jerry Jacka calls “alchemy”—to consider “the implications of turning indigenous lands into gold, which affects the material, social and cultural landscape.” We will also discuss the interdisciplinary research of Sarah Knuckey and Joshua Fisher, who have used chemistry and human rights methods to explore indigenous concerns. Have mine operations polluted rivers and streams, contaminated rainwater, caused erosion and landslides, and contributed to poor air quality and low crop yield?

Required reading for Chemical Species II: Alchemy, Gold, and Water:


 Please RSVP and register HERE >>

Emergent Ecologies Art Exhibit

Curated by Eben Kirksey, Grace Glovier, Cody Kohn, Kayli Marshall, Greg Umali, and Alexandra Palocz

February 29th - March 30th
Butler College, Studio '34 Cafe

Emergent ecologies are being fastened into place with new rivets and cyborg articulations. Amidst collapsing systems, unruly assemblages are flourishing and proliferating in unexpected places. This exhibit is an outgrowth of the Freshman Seminar, “Environmental Art: Thinking, Making, Dreaming.” Alongside work by established international ecoartists, bioartists, sculptors, and performers we will exhibit work by “wild artists”—students and others in the Princeton community who do not have recognizable art credentials. We are pushing Joseph Beuys’ famous decree—“You are all artists”—beyond human realms to include microbes, insects, and plants.

Emergent Ecologies Art Exhibit

Opening reception: Monday, February 29th, 6:00-7:30pm

 Facebook Opening Reception Event Page

This reception in the Studio ‘34 Café at Butler College follows a special event in the same space: “Hope in an Era of Extinction,” featuring a talk by Cary Wolfe (Rice) starting 4:30, and a panel discussion with Kevin Esvelt (MIT), Beth Shapiro (UC Santa Cruz), James Hatley (Salisbury), Genese Sodikoff (Rutgers), Ashley Dawson (City University of New York), Maria Whiteman (Rice), Rafi Youatt (New School), David Wilcove (Princeton), and Graham Burnett (Princeton).

Rather than be a static exhibit, which will stay the same from the opening and closing dates, our project will involve playing with the “hap” of what happens. We will be conducting experiments with happiness and glass, breaking down boundaries (and constructing new ones) to see what ecological communities might emerge.

Closing reception: Wednesday, March 30th, 6:00-7:30pm

The closing event in Studio ’34 Café will involve performative art interventions by Anna Dumitriu (London), Alex May (London), and Kathy High (RPI) in association with a two-day Symposium: “The Microbiome: Rethinking Human Nature.”

These events are being hosted by Eben Kirksey, Visiting Professor of Anthropology and the 2015-16 Currie C. and Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor in the Environment and the Humanities.


Hope in an Era of Extinction

February 29, Monday: The Multispecies Salon presents, talk by Cary Wolfe (Rice): “Curating Life & Death: The Case of the Passenger Pigeon

4:30-6:00pm, Studio 34 Café, Butler College

Hope in an Era of Extinction

We live in a time of extinction.  As some charismatic creatures are being saved in zoos, captive breeding facilities, and cryogenic banks, a multitude of others are disappearing as they are disregarded or actively targeted for destruction. Who should we love in a time of extinction? What practices of care can keep those who we love in the world? Can ongoing ecological catastrophes be stemmed – or reversed – with technological or scientific interventions? If it is technically possible, should woolly mammoths and passenger pigeons be reanimated? Should unloved animals, like ticks and mosquitoes, be edited out of ecosystems?

Panel discussion: Kevin Esvelt (MIT), Beth Shapiro (UC Santa Cruz), James Hatley (Salisbury), Genese Sodikoff (Rutgers), Ashley Dawson (City University of New York), Maria Whiteman (Rice), Rafi Youatt (New School), David Wilcove (Princeton), and Graham Burnett (Princeton).

Emergent Ecologies, an art exhibit curated by students in the Environmental Art Freshman Seminar, will open after the panel at Butler College from 6:00-7:30. This is part of The Multispecies Salon discussion series organized and led by Eben Kirksey, Thomas A. Barron Visiting Professor at the Princeton Environmental Institute.

 You can watch recorded event on Youtube:

Required reading for “Hope in an Era of Extinction

Books for Further Readings:

  • Burnett, D. Graham - 2012 The Sounding of the Whale. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press
  • Dawson, Ashley - 2016 Extinction: A Radical History . OR Books
  • Hatley, James - 2006 Interrogating Ethics: Embodying the Good in Merleau-Ponty. Pittsburgh: Duquesne University Press
  • Kirksey, Eben - 2015 Emergent Ecologies. Durham: Duke University Press
  • Shapiro, Beth - 2015 How to Clone a Mammoth. Princeton: Princeton University Press
  • Sodikoff, Genese - 2012 The Anthropology of Extinction. Bloomington: Indiana University Press
  • Wilcove, David S - 1999 The Condor's Shadow: The Loss and Recovery of Wildlife in America. W.H. Freeman and Company, New York
  • Wolfe, Cary - 2010 What is Posthumanism? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press


 Please RSVP and register HERE >>


Film Screening: “WINDJARRAMERU, The Stealing C*nt$”

Thursday, March 24th, 4:30-6pm, Aaron Burr Hall Room 219

Film Screening: “WINDJARRAMERU, The Stealing C*nt$”

Plus: “Toxic Sovereignties in Geontopower”

A conversation with Elizabeth Povinelli (Columbia)

With provocations by: João Biehl (Princeton, Anthropology), Elizabeth A. Davis (Princeton, Anthropology), Amy Herzog (Princeton, Lewis Center for the Arts), Anna-Sophie Springer (Goldsmiths, Centre for Research Architecture), Etienne Turpin (anexact office, Jakarta)

The Stealing C*nt$ is improvisational realism by the Karrabing Film Collective set in the forest scrub near Darwin, Australia. A group of four indigenous young men, played by members of the collective, are holed up in a chemically compromised mangrove swamp having been falsely accused of stealing two cartons of beer, while at the edge of the standoff miners are ransacking the country. This film screening will be coupled with an interactive discussion exploring toxic landscapes, compromised sovereignty, and the contours of geontopower (geology + ontology + power).

Fall 2015 Multispecies Salon Events