Killing in More-than-human Spaces: Pasteurisation, Fungi, and the Metabolic Lives of Wine

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What place might killing occupy in a more-than-human world, where human life is always-already entangled among nonhumans? In this article I attempt to unsettle the assumption that only individual organisms can be killed, and to render other sites and spaces of killing visible. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork among winemakers in South Australia I examine pasteurisation, a killing practice that acts not on organisms but on the fluids within which they live. Examining the pasteurisation of wine damaged by the fungus Botrytis cinerea, I argue that this practice shifts the locus of killing from botrytis’ body to metabolic life processes which embrace extracellular enzymes diffused throughout the wine. I suggest that pasteurisation thus displaces killing into spaces, such as wine-in-the-making, within which many metabolic lives coexist and interpenetrate. Pasteurisation therefore renders killing an intervention into the metabolic relationships that tie together numerous species of microbes living within wine. In acting on wine as a whole it kills rather indiscriminately, simultaneously terminating multiple lives that relate to humans in different ways. Pasteurisation therefore both protects and spoils wine, reconfiguring multiple human-nonhuman relationships in conflicting and sometimes economically costly ways. In so doing, it illustrates that in a more-than-human world killing becomes difficult to confine to a single unwanted organism or species. Killing instead becomes disturbingly mobile and communicable, prone to rebound upon the valued human lives of those who kill in unsettling and potentially harmful ways.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-194
Number of pages23
JournalEnvironmental Humanities
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2014

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Institute of Innovation Research


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