Microbiome science is popularizing a symbiotic understanding of health and ecology. What microbiome science now knows is that microbes entangle the health of people and environments; what we don’t known is how, in this process, new cultural concepts and practices of health may emerge. The ERC funded project HealthXCross asks: how does health come to be reconfigured in a world entangled through microbial data?
HXC is a multi-sited, comparative ethnographic study of how technoscience is reconfiguring biomedicine and biology - and, in turn, social sciences and the same concept of ‘human’ - by aggregating microbial data across time, space and species.
Subscribe to our newsletter, the best way to keep in touch and be informed about HealthXCross' news and activities.
Between 50 and 90% of the cells in a human body are microbial. The composition and activity of the microbiome are central to human processes such as metabolism, weight regulation, immune system structure and function, allergic reactions, and even personality and mood. Human activities such as diet, birth, antibiotic use, and interactions with other humans and animals shape and change the microbiome, just as these microbial communities shape and change their human hosts. Health, therefore, can be seen as a property emerging from an ecosystem, so dislocating the anthropocentric view.
The microbiome ecosystem provides information on how environments, humans and microbes are inextricably entangled in ongoing processes of life. For a bit more than a decade, cutting-edge computational methods (metagenomics) have been available for studying in vivo microbial communities, opening a window into ‘who is there’ and ‘what they might be doing’.
The study of the microbiome offers an entry point to the understanding of different ecosystems and issues such as human nutrition and chronic diseases, plants’ nutrient acquisition and stress tolerance, soil and aquatic environments’ stability, regional ecological disruptions, reductions in agricultural productivity, the degradation of waste matter, poor soil health, global climate processes, or the conversion of natural materials into renewable sources of biofuels or energy.
Given that microbes connect different ecosystems and species, a number of transnational and interdisciplinary projects are emerging to integrate conventional strands of microbiome research (human, animal, plant, water, soil). How all this diversity – ontological, epistemological and socio-political - is articulated and made operative in reframing health and biological diversity is the analytical focus of HealthXCross. Ethnographic examination of selected case studies will generate new knowledge about this experimental process of knowledge-making across space, time, species and disciplines.
Ethnographic sub-projects and objectives
HealthXCross is a multi-sited, comparative ethnographic study of how scientists produce and coordinate knowledge within interdisciplinary platforms that collect, compare and integrate microbial data across time, space and species in order to produce simulations for intervening in both environmental and human health.
HealthXCross is an ethnographic inquiry into the implications of the environment as a body - and vice versa - through analysis of the tensions between the emancipatory and the dystopian effects of dissolving boundaries between human bodies and environments.
We will examine how these research platforms:
- remake notions of biological diversity through technology by crossing conventional categorizations (space, time, species) and epistemic cultures;
- create and emerge from the diverse spacetimes of innovations across the global North and the global South;
- shape new trends in healthcare and health governance.
Participatory nature of the project
HealthXCross will create a participatory design with scientists, who are among stakeholders in the public discourse about what it means to be human and how to live in an entangled planet. Taking inspiration from the microbial world, HealthXCross is committed to create symbiotic processes of research collaboration with technoscience and other disciplines.
The project aspires to offer timely insights into the interplay between knowledge making and changing health practices in times of profound ecological, socio-technical and economic transition. HealthXCross’aim is to advance anthropological understandings of the contradictory but constitutive aspects of living together and being in relation.
The project events comprise:
- Organized - ERC dissemination and communication events organised in Venice at Ca' Foscari premises with the presence of international experts as speakers
- Invited - participation of the ERC members as keynote or guest speakers in events organized by others but intersecting with the ERC project
- Conferences - organisation of panels or participation of the ERC members in conferences' panels and workshop with selection procedure to disseminate the ERC research results
13-14/02/2023 - Book presentation "Environmental Alterities" and seminar "Big Tech and Environmental Science: the data territories of the Post-Environmental Condition"
9/02/2023 - What is Missing in the Language and Tools We Use to Study and Describe Planetary Health?
2/02/2023 - "Science and society: rethinking forms of communication and open data"
Seminar by Federica Bressan, expert in open data and professional communicator, illustrating emergent forms of science communication. Discussion about the current EU transitioning to open data and enhanced society's engagement into science.
|Poster 02/02/2023||2 MB|
25/01/2023 - "Health and Bodies in Postgenomics: from genetic causality to organism / environment(s) entanglement"
Seminar by Maurizio Meloni (Deakin University, Australia) on the multiple semantics of the concept of postgenomics and its different operationalizations in medicine, philosophy, history, and sociology of biology.
|Poster 25/01/2023||2 MB|
9/01/2023 - "From genomes to microbiomes: on historical narratives and why they matter"
Seminar by Soraya (University of California Los Angeles) on the historical narratives and how they play an important role in shaping research questions and setting research agendas.
|Poster 09/01/2023||945 KB|
20/12/2022 - "Microbiome research as a biosocial endeavour"
Discussion between Margeret McFall Ngai (Canergie Institution for Science) and ERC HealthXCross team members on the interface between the social and biological dimensions of contemporary microbiome research.
|Poster 20/12/2022||993 KB|
22/09/2022 - Book Launch “Reactivating Elements. Chemistry, Ecology, Practice”
Conversation between Roberta Raffaetà and Maria Puig de la Bellacasa (University of Warwick) and Dimitris Papadopoulos (University of Nottingham) on the significance of the ‘elemental thought’ across fields. The book is edited by Dimitris Papadopoulos, María Puig de la Bellacasa, and Natasha Myers, and published by Duke University Press (February, 2022).
|Poster 22/09/2022||429 KB|
14/09/2022 - HealthXCross kick-off meeting
14/09/2023 - "Big Data and Visual Data"
Participation by Valeria Burgio as speaker to the seminar "Big data e visual data tra semiotica e sociologia", invited by Maria Giulia Dondero and Roberta Bartoletti, Centro internazionale di Scienze Semiotiche Umberto Eco, Università di Urbino Carlo Bo.
19/06/2023 - "Thinking the organism through the microbiome"
8/05/2023 - "Anthropology and microbiome research. Toward a biocultural agenda"
14/04/2023 - "Thinking health across scales and through the microbiome"
Partecipation by Roberta Raffaetà in the Institute for Society and Genetics Fellow's series of meetings (UCLA), invited by Hannah Landecker (UCLA).
14/04/2023 - "Generi nella scienza. Comunicazione, divulgazione, racconto"
Participation by Valeria Burgio as discussant in the Seminar "Generi nella scienza. Comunicazione, divulgazione, racconto", invited by Pino Donghi and Gianfranco Marrone (Centro Internazionale di Scienze Semiotiche Umberto Eco, University of Urbino Carlo Bo).
3/04/2023 - "Tecnoscienza e relazioni ambientali. Il caso del microbioma"
Seminar presentation by Roberta Raffaetà as part of the PhD seminars "Interazioni ambientali oggi: pericoli, dilemmi e consapevolezze" (Dottorato in Storia, Antropologia, Religioni, Curriculum Antropologico, University Sapienza, Rome), titled "Tecnoscienza e relazioni ambientali. Il caso del microbioma".
24/03/2023 - "Come il microbioma sta cambiando la medicina: tra l'umano, l'ambiente e il computazionale. Piste di ricerca e riflessione"
6/03/2023 - "Microbiome research between human and environmental health"
Seminar presentation by Roberta Raffaetà as part of Séminaire EnviroBioSoc "Incorporation biologique, environnement social", invited by Francesca Merlin and Thomas Bonnin, at IHPST (CNRS and Université Paris 1).
28/02/2023 - Dialogues AgeS: Bruno Latour
Talk by Roberta Raffaetà within the series of dialogues AgeS on Bruno Latour, together with Lavinia Maddaluno (University of Ca' Foscari) and Pietro Daniel Omodeo (Ca' Foscari University).
|Poster 28/02/2023||1,020 KB|
2/02/2023 - "Le trasformazioni della scienza: gli studi sul microbioma tra biologia, ecologia, biomedicina e big data"
Seminar presentation by Roberta Raffaetà as part of the Master course "Filosofia e storia della scienza e della tecnologia", invited by E. Montuschi at Cà Foscari Challenge School and University of Bologna, titled "Le trasformazioni della scienza: gli studi sul microbioma tra biologia, ecologia, biomedicina e big data".
25/01/2023 - "The relation between humans an microbes"
Talk at Centrale Fies (Dro, Trento) by Roberta Raffaetà on the relation between humans an microbes, within the "School of Interspecies Diplomacies and Werewolfish Studies".
20/01/2023 - "Crossing ecosystems, crossing ontologies. How microbiome science is remaking what does it means to be human"
17/11/2022 - "Etnografia di laboratorio: studiare antropologicamente scienziati, microbi e dati"
Seminar presentation by Roberta Raffaetà as part of the Master course "Laboratorio di Etnografia" organized by A. Gribaldo and S. Marabello at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, 17th November, 3.45 - 7 pm (CEST).
|Poster 17/11/2022||286 KB|
9/11/2022 - "The microbiome between human and planetary health"
Seminar presentation by Roberta Raffaetà as part of the seminar series "Ecobiosocial complexities: encounters, critiques, integrations" organized by L. Chiapperino, C. Fasel et F. Panese at the University of Lausanne, 9th November, 10-1:30 pm (CEST). Link to the event: https://unil.zoom.us/j/99584244816.
13-14/10/2022 - "Thinking health par le milieu. A politics of inquiry"
Talk by Roberta Raffaetà and Lucilla Barchetta in the "Thinking par le Milieu. A politics of inquiry", a workshop co-organized by the University of Liège, the BoS in collaboration with HealthXCross, and the FNRS on the 13th and 14th of October 2022.
|Poster 13-14/10/2022||211 KB|
6/10/2022 - “Medical Anthropology and the Microbiome”
Seminar presentation by Roberta Raffaetà at the Medical Anthropology Seminar Series chaired by A. David Napier, Department of Anthropology, University College London, 6th October 2022, 4:30-6 pm (BST).
24/02/2022 - “Medical anthropology and more-than-human health”
Guest lecture by Roberta Raffaetà, Medical Anthropology Europe Online Seminar Series “Building New Relations”, EASA.
18/02/2022 - “Antropologia ambientale: dal microbioma all’umano”
Invited presentation by Roberta Raffaetà with Lucia Cavalca (DEFENS, Università degli Studi di Milano) and Marta Scaglioni (Università degli Studi di Milano), AnthroDayMilano, Università degli Studi di Milano.
17/02/2022- “Who they are and what they are doing? Studiare i microbi tra antropologia e bioinformatica”
Invited presentation by Raffaetà Roberta and Nicola Segata (CIBIO, Trento University), AnthroDayMilano, Università degli Studi di Milano-Bicocca.
11/02/2022 - "La natura come domanda empirica”
Guest lecture by Roberta Raffaetà, Associazione Italiana Sociologia (AIS), Università di Milano-Bicocca.
4/02/2022 - “La ricerca sul microbioma: nuovi scenari di medicina traslazionale?”
Invited presentation by Roberta Raffaetà, Workshop Series “Salute, Ricerca e Cultura”, Fondazione Sasso Corbaro, Bellinzona.
13/12/2021 - "Science and Society in a Changing World: Ethical and Cultural Challenges"
Keynote lecture by Roberta Raffaetà at the conference "Science and Society in a Changing World: Ethical and Cultural Challenges", Ben Gurion University of the Negev, Be'er Sheva. Title of the presentation: “Microbes, environments and humans. Encounters between anthropology and microbiome research in times of biosocial challenges”.
30/09/2021 - PaSTIS
Invited presentation by Roberta Raffaetà at PaSTIS [ITA] (Padova Science, Technology and Innovation Studies, Padova University) to introduce the ERC project by discussing how it derives from her previous research.
1/09/2021 - RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2021
Discussion by Roberta Raffaetà about Jamie Lorimer's book "Probiotic Planet: Using life to manage life" in a dedicated panel at the Royal Geographical Society-IBG Annual International Conference 2021.
15/06/2023 - "Microbial biovalue: environment tourism, environing biotech", 'Environing Tourism: Multispecies Entanglements, Histories, Infrastructures', Munich
Participation by Roberta Raffaetà in the conference 'Environing Tourism: Multispecies Entanglements, Histories, Infrastructures', organized by Carolin Maertens and Alessandro Rippa, Munich, 15-16 June 2023.
5/06/2023 - MSE (Microbes and Social Equity) virtual Symposium 2023
Participation by Lucilla Barchetta and Marta Scaglioni, Panel 1 'Reconsidering 'One Health' Through Microbes', organized by MSE, virtual, 5-9 June 2023, link to the recordings.
27/01/2023 - “De Martino e gli algoritmi. Dispositivi mitico-rituali planetari per fronteggiare l’Apocalisse", SIAM 2023
Presentation by Roberta Raffaetà, Panel 'Nuovi immaginari apocalittici. Salute e orizzonti culturali della crisi', organized by Fabio Dei (University of Pisa) and Luigigiovanni Quarta (University of Bergamo), 27 January 2023, Naples.
29/07/2022 - “Untangling more-than-human, scientific socialities in knowledge infrastructures”, EASA 2022
Presentation by Lucilla Barchetta, Panel ‘Entangled Commons. Shifting Infrastructures of Sociality toward Visionary Pragmatic Lifeworlds’, organized by Aylin Yildirim Tschoepe and Carolin Genz (Humboldt-University of Berlin), 29 July 2022 Belfast.
28/07/2022 - "Health as more-than-human communing in the Anthropocene? The case of microbiome research", EASA 2022
Presentation by Roberta Raffaetà, Panel 'Future Commons of the Anthropocene', organized by Marianne Elisabeth Lien, Elisabeth Schober and Penny Harvey, 28 July 2022, Belfast.
8/07/2022 - "Heterogeneous absences: the making of one digital health", EASST 2022
Presentation by Lucilla Barchetta, Panel ‘Data, algorithms, absence and alterity’, organized by Francis Lee and Michela Cozza, 8 July 2022.
06/07/2022 - "Data flights in the drive for one digital health”, EASST 2022
Presentation by Lucilla Barchetta, Panel "Bringing STS up to speed? The digital as practice" organized by Roos Hopman and Ingmar Lippert, 6 July 2022 Madrid.
6-10/06/2022 - "Co-production of Knowledge, Open Science and Anthropologies of the Future", RAI Virtual Conference
Panel organized by Lucilla Barchetta with Adrienne Mannov (Aarhus University) titled 'Co-production of knowledge, open science and anthropologies of the future' at RAI Anthropology, AI and the Future of Human Society Virtual Conference, 6-10 June 2022.
6/01/2022 - "Workshop on Digital Anthropology. How can we study digital infrastructures ethnographically?", an Antech event
Participation by Roberta Raffaetà and Lucilla Barchetta in the "Workshop on Digital Anthropology. How can we study digital infrastructures ethnographically?", a workshop with Hannah Knox and Maja Hojer Bruun, at Aarhus University, the 6th of January 2022.
18/11/2021 - AAA annual meeting "Truth and Responsibility"
AAA annual meeting "Truth and Responsibility", Baltimore (online), panel ‘Entangling data and entangling disciplines: the future of anthropological collaborations with data scientists’, organized by Roberta Raffaetà and Giovanna Santanera.
The project started in September 2021: we are going to hire in total 6 postdocs. If you are interested in this project and looking for a postdoc keep an eye on the Research grants webpage for forthcoming calls.
Roberta Raffaetà is associate professor of socio-cultural anthropology. Her research stays at the intersection of medical anthropology, environmental anthropology and science & technology studies. She studies how to live well and caring for each other in an entangled and more-than-human planet. She received a PhD in Social Sciences at the University of Lausanne in 2008, then she has been granted a Marie Curie (Trento University and Monash, 2010-2013) and a Fulbright (UCLA, 2018) fellowship.
Victor Secco is a Research Fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and a PhD candidate in Social Anthropology at the University of Manchester. His doctoral research has focused on the interface of microbiological research on bacteriophage viruses and the uses of water for ritual purposes in the context of the Ganges River in North India. Working ethnographically in between laboratories and landscapes, he is interested in the coming together of health and environment across contexts and scales, themes that he will explore further in his current research as part of HealthXCross.
Valeria Burgio's research focuses on scientific images and data visualization. Her approach crosses and overlaps visual semiotics, critical design studies and science and technology studies. She studied Communication Science at the University of Bologna and received a PhD in Art Theories at the Iuav University of Venice. She received postdoc grants at the EHESS in Paris and at the Iuav University of Venice and she was a researcher (RTD-A) for six years at the University of Bolzano. Her research for the HealthXCross project focuses on the visualization of the microbiome in relationship with the technology used to observe it and the role of the technical images in the laboratory discourse.
Mankei (MK) is a cultural anthropologist who graduated from the Chinese University of Hong Kong (2018). His research is integrated into the ERC HealthXCross project through the FARE SHK_HealthXCross project, which focuses on the relationships between global health/biopolitics and microbiome technoscience evolving in Hong Kong and other key hubs that situate China globally. Before joining the HealthXCross project, his project concerned citizens’ self-empowering practices in critical assessments of radiation risks and their collaborations with scientists to explore new forms of agriculture after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. His research interests include Political Ecology, Science and Technology Studies, multispecies ethnography, and studies in social movements.
Lucilla is a cultural anthropologist with a PhD in Urban Studies. Her work focuses on the intersections between ecology, urban socio-ecological change and globalization and is sustained by an in-depth ethnographic approach to the study of multibeings life and health. She is interested in the grounded work of navigating the dimensions of everyday, environmental justice and its links with more-than-human cohabitation. Her first monograph is titled “La rivolta del verde. Nature e rovine a Torino”, published by AgenziaX (Terrae series) in 2021.
Marta is a Post Doc Fellow and holds a PhD in Anthropology at the University of Bayreuth in Co-Tutelle with the University of Milano-Bicocca. She studied at BIGSAS (Bayreuth International Graduate School of African Studies) and her PhD research was carried out in Southern Tunisia on the heritage of slavery and on racial issues. Her book, "Becoming the Abid. Lives and Social Origins in Southern Tunisia", was published by Ledizioni in 2020. She is interested in post-colonial discourses and in science and knowledge diffusion within the African continent, and she contributes to the ERC project HealthXCross (GA n.949742) mainly within the research strand "Spaces of Innovation".
Valentina is an anthropologist of science interested in knowledge making practices at the intersection between microbial, environmental and planetary scales. Valentina studied Cultural Anthropology at the University of Bologna, before moving to the University of Edinburgh where she gained a PhD in Science, Technology and Innovation Studies with a thesis on the emergence of astrobiology, a discipline committed to the study and search for life in the universe. During her first post-doc, Valentina explored the embodied, local and situated nature of knowledge making practices and environmental sensibilities. Her research interests include the social construction of science and technology; the assemblage of imaginaries, embodiments and practices in a more-than-human world; and the space and time of innovation.
Silvia Bellacicco is an expert in European funding and Euro-planning, as well as in project management and implementation. She holds a degree in Marine Environmental Sciences (2000) from the “Ca’ Foscari” Università di Venezia, and since 2001 she has worked on European funding for public bodies such as municipalities, research institutes/universities, as well as civil regions and private companies. She has extensive experience in project/partnership coordination and management, and in providing technical and financial assistance for the project leaders and partners.
Outputs and resources
- Manara, S., Selma-Royo, M., Huang, K. D., Asnicar, F., Armanini, F., Blanco-Miguez, A., Cumbo, F., et al. (2023) Maternal and Food Microbial Sources Shape the Infant Microbiome of a Rural Ethiopian Population. Current Biology, April, In Press, Corrected Proof.
- Raffaetà, R. (2023) ERC HealthXCross Data Management Plan.
- Raffaetà, R., Agnelli, S., Martini, C. (2022) Post-genomica e post-verità: un dialogo interdisciplinare. In Ienna G., D’Abramo F., Badino M. (Eds.), Expertise ed epistemologia politica, Meltemi 2022, ISBN 9788855196611.
- Raffaetà, R. (2022) Metagenomic futures. How metagenomic is reconfiguring health and what it means to be human. Routledge 2022. ISBN 9781032068633.
- Raffaetà, R. (2022) Il lato oscuro della simbiosi, Alea (Vol. 3), 47-48.
- Santanera, G., Raffaetà, R. (2021) Designing unpredictable futures. An anthropological perspective on the algorithmical prediction of human behavior. In L. Di Lucchio, L. Imbesi, A. Giambattista, V. Malakuczi (Eds.), Design Culture(s). Cumulus Conference Proceedings Roma 2021 (Vol. 2). ISBN: 978-952-64-9004-5.
- Raffaetà, R. (2021) Il microbioma tra l’umano e il post-umano: piste di ricerca antropologica, AM. Rivista della Società Italiana di Antropologia Medica, 22(51), 307-328.
- Raffaetà, R. (2021) Microbial Antagonism in the Trentino Alps. Negotiating Spacetimes and Ownership through the Production of Raw Milk Cheese in Alpine High Mountain Summer Pastures, Current Anthropology, ahead of print.
- Raffaetà, R. (2021) Etica e progettazione europea. Uno studio di caso, Archivio antropologico mediterraneo, XXIV, 23(1)
- Raffaetà, R. (2020) Antropologia dei microbi. Come la metagenomica sta riconfigurando l’umano e la salute, CISU, Roma (english translation forthcoming 2022, Routledge).
- De Chadarevian, S., Raffaetà, R. (2020) COVID-19: Rethinking the nature of viruses, ZMANIYM, 145, 108-113.