Metabolic Humanities

Metabolism is fundamental to life, to being a human organism in constant exchange with its environment. Metabolism is also the focus of several of the major public health concerns of the 21st century; from rising diagnoses of obesity and diabetes to the impact of consuming industrial diets on the body.

In the past few years, the social sciences and humanities have started to pay greater attention to metabolism, both as a key area of biomedical science to understand, and as a metaphor for contemporary attention to the body as a complex of interacting systems in dialogue with each other and the environment. Under the wider umbrella of medical humanities, this research area is developing a sustained focus on “metabolic humanities.”

Concrete research projects starting from 2018 include the following aims:

  1. To investigate how microbiomes can be used as models for ecological thinking across art and science.
  2. To elucidate how gut–brain–microbiome interaction research impacts understanding of mental illness across science, culture, and individual experience.
  3. To identify the key tools of metabolic research today, by integrating the insights of the Center scientists with perspectives from the history and philosophy of science.

The research area is coordinated by Associate Professor Adam Bencard, who has expertise in the philosophy of metabolism and the microbiome and museology, as well as an extensive curatorial practice.