Charming worms: crawling between natures

 

Some anthropologists have argued that Euro-American culture is naturalist, anchored to the belief in a coherent, unitary universe in which natural laws operate. From a close ethnographic inspection, however, the allegedly naturalist sciences emerge as heterogeneous practices, engaging with complex and not quite coherent objects. Following one such object – an earthworm – allows me to show that the earthworm science that studies it has no univocal object, but rather one that is multiple. At the same time, scientists successfully engage in practices that seek to hold together the incoherent earthworm/s and the world/s in which it is/they are being practised. It is in this way that coherence may still be achieved. Exploring the gaps between multiple ontologies and coordinating practices allows for the emergence of a sharper, practice-attentive understanding of science and its naturalist achievements. If it is true that a single, unitary Nature is nowhere to be found, the analysis presented here shows how a transient, contingent, multiple, and – yet – still bound-together nature may result from careful coordination practices.

 

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