dinsdag 28 september 2021

Post-Colonial parasites


“after 1900 bacteria and parasites routinely were differentiated. Bacteria were generally contagious, whereas strict parasites, needing to pass through a vector or intermediate host were not. (..)bacteria could thus be cosmopolitan, whereas parasites depended on the geographical dispersion of insects and other hosts. That the bacterial diseases should be cosmopolitan is easily understood, the germ passes from host to host without metamorphosis, and practically uninfluenced by the usual media of transmission Such germs were not geographically limited and therefore not the substance of tropical medicine. The study of bacteria and parasites thus became institutionally segregated, with parasitology confined to tropical medicine, a segment of public health and agriculture"

Warwick Anderson is an Australian medical doctor, poet, and historian. His paper ‘Postcolonial Ecologies of Parasite and Host’ traces the history of ecological thinking in Australian Epidemiology by mapping the intellectual environment of virologist F.M.Burnet in the early 20th century. 

Anderson describes how colonial settlers encountering a –for them- hostile environment, were forced to abandon generalized anglo-european theories on the the spread of virusses and bacteriological infection and think instead in terms of locally situated parasite-host relations which then became an important base for thinking in terms of ecosystems. He then takes this concepts and – in lline with post-colonial thinking- turns it upon the position of the settlers themselves, thus making an argument for a parasite-host or ecological worldview:

“I am calling for a more historical realism in the history of biology, recognition of other places, the places of others, as locales of knowledge making, and not just as sites of resource extraction and passive intellectual reception. In order to understand how parasites became cosmopolitan in disease ecology, we too, as historians, need to become cosmopolitan – to rescue other histories from the violence of exclusion (..)

The paper reminded me of a paper by Hongkong zinesters Elaine W.Ho and Ming Lin that is already part of the parasite zinelibrary and that takes the parasite-host relation to make an argument for a post-colonial standpoint on the spread of anglo-european views on zineculture in asia:

“observing that the term zine has been in recent years co-opted to apply to nearly anything- cute, small, nicely printed, not entirely mainstream- our research led to the proposal of a new definition, one borne of conditions specific to this part of the world’s socio-political ecology. By exposing fluid streams of influence and proposing other possible routes for the formation of zine-culture in Asia, we may begin to depart from western-dominated narrative and to rethink and refine what zines and independent publishig culture can be.”

The text then redefines the zine as a ‘semi-autonomous zine’ (S.A.Z.)

“the S.A.Z. does not necessary aim to oppose “western Genealogies” , but allows for a more complex and more context focussed analysis”(..)”rather than being wholly independent from mainstream institutions or media, the S.A.Z. negotiates a parasitical relationship to dominant culture. In what is, then, and inevitably fraught relationship, print media are examined as strategy and social practice(..)”





the parasite zinelibrary collects scientific papers that evolve around parasite metaphors and converts these to zineformat. This 'ecological view' on self-publishing  on the one hand injects scientific method into zineculture and turns it into a medium for self-education, on the other it introduces the active network of zineculture to scientific publishing. We feel relatively free to do so because in our view any scientific paper using parasite metaphors cannot be too rigid about this kind of parasitic activity without contradicting itself. At the same time we do acknowledge the precariousness involved in parasitism. Our zines are not mass produced or spread randomly but intend to remain situated in our library and zine ecosystem.