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Fearful Intimacies: COVID-19 and the Reshaping of Human–Microbial Relations

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Carmen McLeod



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


This article explores how COVID-19 could be reshaping human–microbial relations in and beyond the home. Media sources suggest that intimacies of companionability or ambivalence are being transformed into those of fearfulness. While a probiotic sociocultural approach to human–microbial relations has become more powerful in recent times, it seems that health and hygiene concerns associated with COVID-19 are encouraging the wholesale use of bleach and other cleaning agents in order to destroy the potential microbial ‘enemies’ in the home. We provide a brief background to shiĞ ing public health discourses on managing microbes in domestic seĴ ings over recent decades across the industrialised world, and then contrast this background with emerging advice on COVID-19 from news and advertisement sources. We conclude with key areas for future research.

Publication metadata

Author(s): McLeod C, Hadley Kershaw E, Nerlich B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Anthropology in Action

Year: 2020

Volume: 27

Issue: 2

Pages: 33–39

Online publication date: 01/06/2020

Acceptance date: 10/07/2020

Date deposited: 01/12/2020

ISSN (print): 0967-201X

ISSN (electronic): 1752-2285

Publisher: Berghahn Journals


DOI: 10.3167/aia.2020.270205


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