Toward a multispecies home

Bedbugs and the politics of non-human relations

Authored by: Heather Lynch

The Routledge Handbook of Critical Social Work

Print publication date:  January  2019
Online publication date:  January  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138578432
eBook ISBN: 9781351264402
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781351264402-34

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Abstract

There is a growing urgency around the environmental challenges of climate change, pollution and mass extinction. In different ways these factors threaten the ecology that supports human life. Social work scholarship has been slow to engage with contemporary environmental theory; perhaps because this work seeks to forge new concepts and new ways of thinking which challenge the modernist premise of social work. While some thinking in environmental social work criticises anthropocentric modernism and proposes deep ecology, the examples of work offered continue to centre human interests. This chapter draws on a study of bedbug/human cohabitation – multispecies environment – in a Glasgow locality to tease out the ethical issues of analysis based on the tenets of deep ecology. A genealogical analysis of human/bedbug relations shows how the intimate concerns of everyday bedroom life connect with ecological factors that extend to deep time. Human contributors establish how their experience of living with bedbugs has forced them to confront their horror of the creatures. In doing so they adopt an orientation in keeping with contemporary environmental philosophy which eschews human exceptionalism. This creates a dilemma for social work. Where human interests are decentred this inevitably leads to human discomfort, a factor which could be viewed as at odds with an agenda for social justice.

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