B is for Bug, O is for Oikos: A Partial Dictionary of Household Arthropods
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Arthropods are the most numerous and diverse group of animals on the planet. This work seeks to explore the relations between humans and arthropods within the context of modern, North American homes. The unknown, sometimes undiscovered, or simply overlooked landscapes of human households provides a rich environment in which to explore the lives of arthropods that can offer different, and often humbling, perspectives to humanity. The species I explore are (for the most part) those that have cosmopolitan distributions and have specific adaptations that allow them to live alongside us in our dwelling spaces, our oikos. I reconceptualise human households as a multispecies assemblage, which serves as both a metaphor and a map for my explorations of the situated human-arthropod relations in this environment. I draw on a materialist approach that considers the intra- and interactions between human and nonhuman animals, plants, objects, and other things within human households. Interest in the investigation of human homes from the perspective of the natural and biological sciences has grown in recent years: I pair the scientific study of indoor arthropods with a phenomenological exploration of the lifeworlds of these creatures in order to discover why it is that these organisms make their homes alongside ours; raising the question of who is what to whom? In so doing, I also challenge the notion of what it means to be a pest by looking at the evolution and ecological roles of arthropods alongside human cultural perspectives and histories that make up what we know or think we know about these creatures. Education thus serves as a fundamental aspect of my research insofar as coming to know these organisms is essential so that we can make reasoned decisions about how we want to live with arthropods of the indoors. My objective in exploring human-arthropod entanglement within the home is to “stay with the trouble” (following Haraway, 2016b) and consider what it might mean to both live and die well with these creatures by envisioning a present in which humans accept these creatures and our shared life histories as simply a part of life. Ultimately, it is my hope that we can at least grow to tolerate arthropods, if not developing some level of respect for their presence on earth.