News and Opinions  –  2024

World Microbiome Day 2024: Dialogue on alternative to war metaphor in medicine

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ReAct Latin America and the Reimagining Resistance Group have announced an international dialogue on 27 June titled "Dancing with our friends, bacteria, to the rhythm of science, art, life" to mark World Microbiome Day 2024. The event aims to challenge the traditional "war metaphor" used to describe human-microbe relationships and promote a more nuanced understanding of microbial life.

The dialogue brings together artists and scientists to explore the concept of “Dancing with Bacteria” as an alternative to the adversarial approach that has long dominated microbiology and infectious disease related medicine. This shift in perspective is based on growing scientific evidence about the vital roles bacteria play in ecosystems, human health, and global ecological processes.

Arturo Quizphe, Director, ReAct Latin America.

“Today we know that only a tiny fraction of bacteria are pathogenic to humans”

says Dr. Arturo Quizhpe, Director of ReAct Latin America, explaining the need to find alternatives to the war metaphor

According to Mary Murray, founder of the Reimagining Resistance Group,

“There is a profound incongruity between the metaphor of war and the true function of bacteria. What we have, in reality, is the absolute primacy of symbiosis or, metaphorically speaking, of dance.”

The Reimagining Resistance Group is an international collective of artists and scientists working to change perceptions about microbes and antimicrobial resistance.

Botanical artwork of Sharon Field

Presentations and performances during the event!

The event will feature presentations and performances by a diverse group of experts:

  • Johanna McBride, musical director of the Chorus of Women, Canberra, Australia
  • Sharon Field, botanical artist
  • Stephen Sherwood, agroecologist and professor at Wageningen University
  • Dr. Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, artistic director of the Mirramu Dance Company and
  • Peng Hsiao-yin, Artistic Director of Dancecology, Taiwan.

These participants will share their perspectives on the connection between art, science and ecology, and how these can help our understanding of microbes.

Johanna McBride highlights the importance of reconnecting different fields of knowledge:

“The arts and sciences, thinking and feeling have been split in the modern world. Even different branches of the arts have been separated from each other: music and dance used to be one activity. This compartmentalization and loss of interconnection are at the heart of our problems.”

Stephen Sherwood emphasizes the significance of microbes in our world:

“The planet is ruled by microbes, so humans should learn to dance with them.”

The dialogue will also feature a collaborative dance performance by Dancecology and Mirramu, exploring themes of ecology, symbiosis, and inter-generational relationships.

This event is part of a broader effort to reimagine humanity’s relationship with microbes and the natural world. By bringing together diverse perspectives from art and science, the organizers hope to foster a more holistic and cooperative approach to understanding and addressing global challenges, including antimicrobial resistance and environmental issues.

Aesthetics of the Invisible report

The “Dancing with our friends, bacteria” dialogue promises to be an engaging and thought-provoking exploration of the intersections between microbiology, ecology, and the arts. It challenges participants and audiences to reconsider their perceptions of bacteria and their role in the world.

A special publication titled, “Aesthetics of the Invisible” will also be released at the event on World Microbiome Day.

Click to look at recording of the event!

Click to download programme (PDF)

The event will be held in Spanish and English.

It will be recorded and you will be able to find a link to the recording on this page.

Visit the ReAct Latin America website