The Third Domain

Black and white picture showing two fermentation vats used to produce biological antibiotics

Antibiotic Fermentation Tank ca. 1950

The Third Domain is an ambitious interdisciplinary project that asks how one of the most significant biological phenomena of our time – the rise of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – came to be framed almost exclusively as a problem of human and animal health, but not as a planetary shift of the microbial biosphere. Focussing on the third – environmental – domain of the One Health triad, the project draws on a mix of written and biological source material to decentre and rewrite traditional – eukaryotic – accounts of the antibiotic era as a history of exposure, pollution, and genetic change. The project will specifically assess: (1) what impact mass antibiotic exposure had on microbial ecologies beyond centres of health care and food production; (2) why the ‘Third’ environmental domain of AMR has remained neglected in terms of antibiotic policy frameworks; (3) how thinking of AMR as an Anthropocene of the microbial cell might reframe problem definitions and policy solutions.