Microbes, chemicals and the health of homes: integrating theories to account for more-than-human entanglements

Publication Type:
Journal Article
BioSocieties, 2019
Issue Date:
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© 2019, Springer Nature Limited. In the post-war period, the health risks posed by indoor environments have both transformed and challenged notions of environmental health centred on pathogenic germs. The composition of home spaces, particularly in developed nations, has been fundamentally altered by the introduction of formerly industrial chemicals to everyday products and building materials. Further, the changing nature of building design, cleaning practices and urban life have altered the ‘microbiomes’ of homes, contributing to a rise in certain immune system conditions. This paper contends that to begin to address these concerns, the microscopic elements of ‘indoor ecosystems’, and how they are created and maintained, must become a focal point for research. It proposes an approach that integrates social practice theories and multispecies ethnography to investigate the cumulative composition of indoor spaces. Findings detail the application of this approach to research into the domestic hygiene practices of parents with young children in Sydney, Australia. This approach highlights crucial assumptions about the ways micro-scale agency is embedded in everyday domestic practices that are contributing to sub-optimal indoor environments.
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