Studium Generale - Anders M. Gullestad

Lecture: 'On the genealogy of the parasite'

Anders Gullestad’s talk will offer an overview of the history of the concept of the parasite, from classical Greek and Roman antiquity to the present.

While originally only used to describe humans, starting from the middle of the 17th century, botanists gradually adopted the term, and later, other kinds of naturalists also followed suit. As a result, from the 19th century onwards, the concept ended up simultaneously referring to certain kinds of humans, to plants and to animals – and more specifically, to animals that were generally considered the lowest, most useless and degenerate in all of nature.

Historically, the perceived similarity between these different groups of supposedly parasitical entities has functioned as an effective rhetorical tool, for example by the Nazis in their attempt to dehumanize Jews prior to and during WWII. This leads to the question: If the parasitic is indeed not only an unavoidable, but also necessary part of life – as currently held by many scholars within the natural sciences – is there a better way of conceptualizing the parasite today? How can we take into account not only the damage caused by parasites, but also how they function as creative agents that lead systems to reorganize themselves in more complex manners, thereby bringing newness into being?

Bio - Anders M. Gullestad (Bergen, Norway, 1979) finished his PhD on parasitical relationships in Herman Melville’s writings in 2014. He has published articles on the parasite as conceptual figure in journals such as Deleuze Studies, Political Concepts and Leviathan. In addition, he has also written various articles on the intersection between literature and politics. He is one of the co-editors of the anthology Exploring Textual Action, and one of the co-authors of the book Dei litterære sjangrane. Currently, he is associate professor of Scandinavian Area Studies at the University of Bergen.

Student's artwork in reaction to Anders Gullestad's lecture

Artwork by Brynja Steinþórsdóttir

Artwork by Brynja Steinþórsdóttir in reaction to Anders Gullestad's lecture

Brynja Steinþórsdóttir:

I strongly associate resilience with trees breaking through concrete with their roots, small plants growing out of cracks and parasites. I therefore found it fascinating in Anders Gullestad's historical overview how the concept of the parasite throughout history has contributed to the negative connotations people have of it. According to anthropocentric ideas something like a parasite is regarded as the lowest creature in the hierarchy of nature whereas humans rule at the top. In this installation, I approached the parasite as something admirable and strong, a fact of life and a vital element of renewal.



3 oktober 2019 16.00 - 17:30


Auditorium KABK