Living and Dying with Bacteria: Paradoxical Figures of Death

  • Hedvig GröndalEmail author


While previously primarily having been recognized as deadly threats, in recent decades bacteria have emerged as being crucial to our survival and even integral parts of the human organism. In parallel, however, there are growing concerns over bacteria’s ability to develop resistance against antibiotics. Thus, the contemporary position of bacteria is ambiguous. Using accounts from the news media and science, this chapter explores how bacteria can contribute to a cultural sociological discussion on death. This chapter suggests that bacteria have the potential to both unsettle and settle life and death as certain states and as each other’s opposites. It argues that bacteria can be conceptualized as paradoxical figures, enabling both opposing and symbiotic understandings of life and death—as excluding and feeding each other.


Human-microbial relations Bacteria Antimicrobial resistance Paradoxical figures 


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Uppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden

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