Microbium: The Neglected Lives of Micro-Matter tells the story of small matter such as bacteria, coral, fungi, lichen, pollen, protozoa, and viruses. With intentionally short entries that are organized like a herbarium or similar specimen collection, the book is a “microbium”—both the term for a single microbe and a play on “microbiome.”
As such, Microbium makes visible the neglected but huge impact of miniscule matter on human culture and the environment. Each entry is a “microscopic reading” that describes the natural history and scientific discovery of its kind of micro-matter, while also telling a story about the cultural and artistic roles it has played over the centuries. From the poetry of Emily Dickinson to contemporary literature about the COVID-19 pandemic, looking at micro-matter serves as a cultural microscope that translates the significance of the invisible interspecies social to the human scale and magnifies the many ways in which micro-matter matters. Ultimately, Microbium shows the potential of micro-matter to teach us how to revitalize our political and cultural systems, habits of thought, and aesthetic or representational modes.