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The main argument of the collection is to examine how scientific theories and practices of biology influence cultural critique and how we might cogenerate critical feminist theories from biological theories and practices. One of the key questions is to interrogate how feminist science studies and cognate areas gain relevance to intervene and bring forward other ways of doing and transforming the biosciences, their applications, and their unintended consequences.

(Forthcoming with Sam Fernández-Garrido)

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Starting from the lens of a Galician (North West Spain) ethnographic documentary, Negro Púrpura (2021), along with a recent feature film, O Corno (2023), both with the ergot fungi in the region as protagonist, we trace and identify a fourfold trajectory of ergot (1) as an ally of women healers and midwives for centuries; (2) as economic sustenance for peasant women before and after the Spanish Civil War (1936 - 1939); (3) as a lucrative biopharmaceutical for reproductive and mental health research (e.g. the synthesis of LSD in 1938), transgressing the boundaries of the laboratory to become an embodied and sensory part of the countercultural movement of the 1960s in Europe and the United States; (4) as promising symbionts in the contemporary reemergence of new forms of collective and holistic interspecies consciousness.

Bringing together feminist and decolonial STS with a multimodal approach to the study of ergot-human relations, the paper intertwines historical archives, an experimental documentary, and a film with scientific literature on mycology, reproductive and mental health research and ethnographic data of embodied experiences and body mapping on LSD use. We analyse the onto-epistemic, embodied and socio-political significance of conducting a genealogy of the present of ergot: from vernacular women-ergot entanglements to how the erasure of those was conditioned by the production and circulation of a promising and lucrative biomedical substance in the twentieth-century pharmaceutical industry; from experimental biochemistry to its reemergence in today´s ¨Psychedelic Renaissance¨. In doing so, we argue that the long durée of women-ergot entanglements envision other possible ways of healing and of being-in-the-world which is tangible in today´s psychedelic spiritualities and mystical experiences and which reverberates in contemporary visual and embodied cultures and arts.

(In preparation with María Jesús Santesmases) 

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Through the lens of my ethnographic fieldwork of a transnational community of microbiome scientists that conducted a landmark human microbiome research on indigenous microbes and its affiliated and first personalised microbiome initiative, the American Gut Project, I follow and trace the key actors, experimental systems and onto-epistemic claims in the emergence of human microbiome science a decade ago. In doing so, I show the links between the reinscription of race, comparative research on the microbial genetic variation of human populations and the remining of bioprospected data for personalised medicine. In these unpredictable research movements, the microbiome of non-Western peoples and territories is much more than a side project or a specific approach within the field: it constitutes the nucleus of its experimental system, opening towards subsequent and cumulative research processes and knowledge production in human microbiome science. The article demonstrates that while human microbiome science is articulated upon the microbial ‘makeup’ of non-wester(nised) communities, societies, and locales, its results and therapeutics are only applicable to medical conditions affecting rich nations (i.e., inflammatory, autoimmune, and metabolic diseases). My reformulation of ¨microbiomisation of race¨ as the condition of possibility of human microbiome science reveals that its individual dimension is sustained by microbial DNA data from human populations through bioprospecting practices and gains meaning through personalised medicine initiatives, informal online networks of pseudoscientific and commodified microbial-related evidence.

Cite as: 

Núñez Casal, A. (2024). Race and indigeneity in human microbiome science: microbiomisation and the historiality of otherness. HPLS 46, 17.

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Combinando marcos analíticos procedentes de los estudios de ciencia, tecnología y sociedad (CTS), filosofía y antropología de la ciencia, el capítulo analiza los vestigios coloniales de la microbiómica y sus vínculos con la economía política, temas que, a pesar de su relevancia y ubicuidad, permanecen ausentes en los estudios críticos de la ciencia. Mediante el concepto de la ¨biología del capital¨, el capítulo demuestra cómo a mayor nivel adquisitivo, mayor es la diversidad microbiana y menor la susceptibilidad a la RAM y viceversa. Dicha estratificación social de microbios e inmunidades refleja la heterogeneidad en la que los vínculos entre la economía política y la biología se (re)producen y experimentan en y por los diferentes (micro)organismos y cuerpos.

Cite as: 

Núñez Casal. Andrea. (2024). ¨La biología del capital: renaturalización del microbioma y estratificación social de inmunidades¨, en Puentes Salvajes: una filosofía integradora para renaturalizar el antropoceno (coord. Cristian Moyano). Colleción Dilemata. Madrid: Plaza y Valdés.


Racialisation and colonialism are central to sustaining (dis)embodied inequalities. We bring together our distinct ethnographic projects to explore this. The first project accompanied a microbiome expedition involving Amazonian Indigenous non/human communities, whereas the second project focussed on medical professional’ encounters with Mbya Guarani communities in the Atlantic Forest region. Both projects explore racialised assumptions of human difference and colonial extractive practices. In the case of medical intervention with the Mbya, and their forms of life, this is perpetuated through the imposition of anthropometric growth standards. With the human microbiome initiatives, identifying Indigenous Peoples as potential reservoirs for novel probiotics also ultimately amplifies racialised (dis)embodied inequalities. Rather than these interventions addressing such disembodied equalities, we draw parallels between the two, to show that they perpetuate them. Finally, we propose that part of ceasing to reproduce these (dis)embodied inequalities requires ‘us’ to challenge the racialised and colonial histories of the life and geological sciences, to recognise their embodied consequences in the present, as well as how they are implicated in emergent proposals for new geological ´-cenes´. 

Cite as: 

de Lima Hutchison, C., & Núñez Casal, A. (2023). Sustaining (Dis)Embodied Inequalities in the(ir) Eurocene: Ancient Microbes, Racial Anthropometry, and Life Choices. Medicine Anthropology Theory, 10(2), 1-33.

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Feminist para-ethnographies are a method of registration, documentation and interpretation of embodied experiences of health and disease as part of medical diagnostic and therapeutic data, offering a de-medicalised approach. As Anderson and Mackay (2014) sustain, in relation to autoimmunity, (embodied) biographies are an indispensable part of the efficacy of more conventional medical treatments. My proposition has very much to do with the ‘ethnographic turn’ Mol and Law call for as part of a ‘multi-voiced form of investigative story telling´ (2004: 59). This requires the research design of tools in order to record, document, and provide situated accounts of embodied biological experience or ‘socialised biology´ (Riley, 1983). In doing so, our individual and collective knowledges, practices, and embodied experiences as sentient beings – as sufferers but also as researchers, clinicians, midwives, microbiologists, immunologists, etc – are crucial.

Cite as:

Núñez Casal, A. (2021) ‘Feminist para-ethnographies: a proposition for a ‘critical friendship’ between embodied experiences and microbiome science’, The London Journal of Critical Thought, 4(1), pp. 21-35.


 Against the erasure of data that truncates the linear and seemingly ‘objective’ scientific knowledge production, our role as connoisseurs, that is, as ‘agents of resistance against a scientific knowledge that pretends it has general authority’ (Stengers, 2018, p. 9), is crucial. Yet, becoming connoisseurs, requires careful reflection on our own positionality and its entanglements in knowledge production. It is not only biomedicine that has devalued local and traditional health cultures, including the role of embodied experiences in health and disease. For many of us, I believe, our own situatedness in the West, even if in dissidence, acts as an inherent impediment. The blooming field of chronobiology, for example, illustrates this well. At the back of the growing interest of today’s biomedicine on temporal environments, metabolism and circadian physiology, there are long genealogies of non-Western medical systems and traditions – knowledge systems that have been studying the spatio-temporal dimension of health and disease for millennia such as Indian indigenous systems of health care like Ayurveda – which biomedical and social sciences and humanities research alike often overlook. Importantly, the ecological nostalgia for a traditional or even ‘ancestral’ past articulated around ‘new’ food cultures in the West (e.g. fermentation, wholegrains, fasting and spirituality, etc) is not only about (mostly non-western) local health traditions and belief systems but, crucially, it also entails the consequential role of women in transgenerational health and wellbeing (i.e. unwaged reproductive labour). Our role as connoisseurs demands an effort to learn from or acknowledge at least knowledge-practices and actors beyond our own (gendered) Western precepts and situatedness. 

Cite as: 

Núñez Casal, A. (2021). ‘It begins with us: on why our embodied experiences matter in the disappearance of worlds’, EASST Review, 40(1), pp.8-15. 

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The human microbiome—trillions of symbiotic microbial cells harboured in the human body—challenges the tenet of a fixed and self-contained human nature by recognising the role of microbes, along with environmental and lifestyle factors, in the shaping of the immune function. Does this mean that the material-semiotic paradigm of the immune self, or immunity-as-defence (Cohen, 2009), is obsolete? Through the development of what I call ‘feminist para-ethnographies’—an intersectional method that entangles embodied experiences and ethnography with ‘fugitive’ qualitative data in technoscientific claims and quantitative research—and through using analytical frameworks from body studies, science and technology studies, and anthropology of science, this thesis asks in what ways and to what extent human microbiome research is shaping and reconfiguring biomedical practice and experimentation and older scientific and popular ideas associated with the immune self.

Drawing on my research findings, I argue that human microbiome science is displacing older ideas of immunity as a guarantor of biological identity and individuality, rendering notions of the self as bounded, universal, and autonomous increasingly difficult to maintain. Yet, I hold that, simultaneously, it instantiates new forms of difference, particularly ‘immunitary privileges’ based on a higher microbial diversity, and reproduces old ones in terms of neo-colonial practices of bioprospecting biodiversity. The central argument I make in this thesis is that human microbiome science takes social groups as pre-existing, ‘natural’ phenomena, and biologises them by attributing microbes and microbial profiles to them. By correlating certain microbial species and diversity with hunter-gatherers (race), women (gender), or high-income families (class), social categories of difference become ‘microbiomised’.

Importantly, this thesis also sheds light on how to (co-)produce scientific knowledge that becomes more sensitive and responsive to its social implications (Stengers, 2018) through another dimension of ‘feminist para-ethnographies’: as a material-semiotic device of registration, documentation, and analysis of embodied experiences of human–microbe relations.

Cite as: 

Núñez Casal, Andrea. 2019. The microbiomisation of social categories of difference: An interdisciplinary critical science study of the human microbiome as the re-enactment of the immune self. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Selected publications : Publications


This section includes publications and course materials that I developed as an Associated Lecturer in ¨Embodiment and Experience¨ at the Media, Communications and Cultural Studies Department, Goldsmiths, University of London (2014-2020) and in ¨Interdisciplinary approaches for Planetary Health¨ module of the MSc in Planetary Health, Universita Oberta de Catalunya (2021-Present). 


(with Grettel Navas in Spanish) 

In this book, we provide an introduction to the critical perspectives of Planetary Health in the social sciences and humanities. 

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(with Lisa Blackman & Louise Chambers)

This module will examine the place of the ‘body’ in contemporary social and cultural theory taking a number of case studies as examples. In recent years across a range of academic disciplines, from sociology, anthropology, cultural studies and psychology, there has been a move away from approaching the body as a pre-given biological entity or substance, to explore
the body as a process. This shifts inquiry from asking not ‘what a body is?’, but rather ‘what
can a body do’? ‘What could bodies become’? This work privileges the materiality of the body, as well as introducing creative energy and motion into our understandings of corporeality. It also directs and extends our focus away from anthropocentric understandings of the body (ie.
that the human body is distinctly ‘human’) and orients our examinations of corporeality to include species bodies, psychic bodies, machinic bodies, vitalist bodies and other-worldly bodies. These bodies may not conform to our expectations of clearly defined boundaries between the psychological, social, biological, ideological, economic and technical, and may not even resemble the molar body in any shape or form.

This module provides a critical forum to reflect on these issues, and will provide students from the humanities and social sciences with a critical understanding of theories of society, culture and communications, which recognize that the body has a materiality and cannot simply be
collapsed into text, discourse and signifying activity. This work also explores the complex and
layered relationships between scientific narratives/practices, cultural narratives/ practices and our own autobiographies/ embodied practices. The module will explore to what extent we need to talk about embodiment, rather than the body in any fixed way.

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Selected publications : Publications
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