The Microbial Resolve: Visualization, Speculation, and Security

Gloria Kim
Media & Cultural Studies
UC Riverside

The Microbial Resolve maps a crucial period (1989-2015) in which microbial life was being reconceptualized and materially reworked. It shows how the invention of the “emerging microbes” concept by US government scientists after the cold war, in its framing of microbes as “emergent,” oriented attention away from a concern over existing microbes, and towards the risks of their mutant, everywhere, always-potential (not probable) futures. This book is an interdisciplinary and syncretic study of the US-led project to plumb, in order to secure, the ungraspable futures of emergent microbes. It tracks how this militarized US-led effort became a vast formation, spanning states, institutions, ecologies, systems, and resources.

The history of the emerging microbe hinges on the problem of its materialization: How did microbes existing only in a state of potential become material substrate for planetary remaking? This project develops the concept of “microbial resolution” to name the set of discursive processes and visualization practices through which emerging microbes were materialized as securable matter in the world. This project traces the earthly afterlives of this history (eg., the rise of antibiotic resistant superviruses) to bring the period between 1989-2015 to view as an important, neglected moment in the recent history of the Anthropocene.