Formulating citizenship: The microbiopolitics of the malfunctioning functional beverage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Human and microbial lives constantly intersect. However, accounts of microbial-human partnerings have yet to explore how producers, consumers, and regulators use their imaginings of microbiological activity to shape individual action. How do these understandings and imaginings of microbial life shape relationships with the state in an environment where citizens expect and demand that their government promote food safety via regulatory intervention? This article provides a theoretical framework for understanding producer and consumer responses to the regulatory crackdown over minimal levels of alcohol in kombucha in the U.S., as well as larger conversations about human-microbe relationships. Through interviews with kombucha producers and consumers, media analysis, and observation, I develop the concept of microbiological citizenship to analyze how producers and consumers of kombucha - a fermented tea - sought to preserve their relations with microbial life in the face of regulatory crackdown. Producer practices to re-manage and preserve microbial life in the face of structural difficulties suggest that for post-Pasteurians, encouragement of human-microbe relationships creates new ties of responsibility that promote collaboration rather than competition. Read through the lens of microbiological citizenship, the controversy over kombucha points to how acknowledging, and even welcoming, the microbial irruptions into human life opens up, complicates, and potentially addresses some of the troubling aspects of biological citizenship.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)41-63
Number of pages23
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • citizenship
  • food
  • microbiopolitics
  • multispecies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • Health Policy


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