For Lack of the Other Inside Me: An Exploration of Bacteria, Gut Flora, Bowel Disorders and Disability
By, Rob Glass
Inside the human body lives tens of trillions of bacteria and micro-organisms, a number that dwarfs the number of human cells by an order of magnitude. These beings live complex lives in complex and changing surroundings, and play a vital role in many parts of the human biological existence, so vital that when these beings die off, or suffer a radical change, the ‘human’ body suffers dearly as a result. This plays itself out through increases in harmful bacteria and viruses, dietary and bowel distress, and a variety of other disabilities that hamper day-to-day life. This paper explores the notion of disability through this relationship to the non-humans that live inside the human body and argues that disability offers a prism to break down human-centered thought and open up new ethical ways of relating both to the non-human and the disabled body.
By recognizing that human ability, and even human lives, depend on a deep and intimate relationship with non-humans we can come to understand both that differences in ability are not inherent reasons to pre-judge someone, and that human beings are composite creatures who are not simply human alone. This interchange allows for new ways of understanding our relationships with each and other and ourselves by opening new ways to relate, understand, and empathize with any other being.
Robert Glass is a Lecturer in the English Department at the University of Rochester where he also serves as the Assistant Debate Coach at the University of Rochester. In the past he has worked for Mercy for Animals and has engaged in several direct action campaigns. He obtained his degree from Binghamton University.