Insect Humanities

This working group brings together researchers interested in insects. We discuss the future of insect studies in the humanities and social sciences and ask methodological questions about insect
research. Many existing insect studies are clustered around specific insect families and the particular interactions they have with humans both negative and positive. We are interested in what methods are promising for understanding insects within an interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary context. In addition, we seek to understand knowledge systems regarding insects that lie outside the academic disciplines as traditionally construed.

The group’s core members have different temporal and geographic areas of expertise ranging from the 16th-20th centuries and covering most of the world’s continents. We have a wide range of interests from insects portrayed in art and used as commodities in the early modern period to pesticide use and concerns regarding the Anthropocene and the Plantationocene in the present day. The group is interdisciplinary in nature and we welcome curators, archivists, library professionals, scientists and many others. We intend to discuss: What is the role of insects in humanities? How do insects help us to think about non-human animal studies and multi-species relations? How do insects inspire new topics in the history of science?

Scholars studying the insect humanities represent a small but growing niche within the new turn towards non-human animal studies and multi-species concerns. Insects are a productive lens to study many current and pressing issues in the history of science. We find insects to be entities inspiring both wonder and joy.

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Consortium Respectful Behavior Policy

Participants at Consortium activities will treat each other with respect and consideration to create a collegial, inclusive, and professional environment that is free from any form of discrimination, harassment, or retaliation.

Participants will avoid any inappropriate actions or statements based on individual characteristics such as age, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, marital status, nationality, political affiliation, ability status, educational background, or any other characteristic protected by law. Disruptive or harassing behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Harassment includes but is not limited to inappropriate or intimidating behavior and language, unwelcome jokes or comments, unwanted touching or attention, offensive images, photography without permission, and stalking.

Participants may send reports or concerns about violations of this policy to

Upcoming Meetings

  • Monday, June 26, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT

    David A. Bello (E. L. Otey Professor of East Asian Studies at Washington and Lee University) and Daniel Burton-Rose (Assistant Professor of History, Wenzhou-Kean University) will present on their anthology Insect Histories of East Asia (University of Washington Press, 2023), followed by a discussion. Here is the abstract:
    Interactions between people and animals are attracting overdue attention in diverse fields of scholarship, yet insects still creep within the shadows of more charismatic birds, fish, and mammals. Insect Histories of East Asia centers on bugs and creepy crawlies and the taxonomies in which they were embedded in China, Japan, and Korea to present a history of human and animal cocreation of habitats in ways that were both deliberate and unwitting. Using sources spanning from the earliest written records into the twentieth century, the contributors draw on a wide range of disciplines to explore the dynamic interaction between the notional insects that infested authors’ imaginations and the six-legged creatures buzzing, hopping, and crawling around them.
    In addition to the co-editor, the other contributors to the volume are Lijing Jiang, Olivia Milburn, Sang-ho Ro, Mårten Söderblom Saarela, Kerry Smith, and Federico Valenti.

  • Monday, July 24, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT


  • Monday, August 28, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT


  • Monday, September 25, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT


  • Monday, October 23, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EDT


  • Monday, November 27, 2023 11:00 am to 12:30 pm EST


Past Meetings

  • May 22, 2023

    Erinn Campbell (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge) ‘Frank and honest’? The politics of international plant pest reporting, 1952–1994.
    From 1952 to 1994, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) published the FAO Plant Protection Bulletin as an ‘official’ outlet for reporting outbreaks of plant pests and pathogens. Like other scientific serials, the Bulletin served not only as an informational service but also as a site for developing a scientific community—in this case, a global community of plant protection researchers, united (in theory) by a shared commitment to transparency, interdisciplinarity, and transnational cooperation. The benefits of being seen to be a member of this community (complementing other conspicuous displays of post-war internationalism) were necessary to counter the economic disincentives to pest reporting; announcing outbreaks could prompt a nation’s trading partners to quarantine or ban its exports. This paper examines this tension to illuminate the politics of international pest reportingin the Bulletin. In practice, pest reporting was geographically patchy, reflecting both exploitative colonial knowledge networks and Cold War geopolitics. European nations’ reporting declined sharply over the 1950s and remained low until pest reporting became politically expedient in the late 1980s, even as European plant protection experts surveilled pests in colonised territories and newly independent states. On the other hand, many ‘developing’ countries also worked on their own terms (through various forms of collaboration among corporations, government agencies, universities, and non-governmental organisations) to participate in pest reporting and thus establish their place in modern global agriculture.

  • April 24, 2023

    Jeannie Shinozuka (Visiting Assistant Professor of History in International Studies, Soka University) will present a book talk on Biotic Borders: Transpacific Plant and Insect Migration and the Rise of Anti-Asian Racism in America, 1890–1950, followed by a discussion. Here is the abstract:

    In the late nineteenth century, increasing traffic of transpacific plants, insects, and peoples raised fears of a “biological yellow peril” when nursery stock and other agricultural products shipped from Japan to meet the growing demand for exotics in the United States. Over the next fifty years, these crossings transformed conceptions of race and migration, played a central role in the establishment of the US empire and its government agencies, and shaped the fields of horticulture, invasion biology, entomology, and plant pathology. In Biotic Borders, Jeannie N. Shinozuka uncovers the emergence of biological nativism that fueled American imperialism and spurred anti-Asian racism that remains with us today.

    Shinozuka provides an eye-opening look at biotic exchanges that not only altered the lives of Japanese in America but transformed American society more broadly. She shows how the modern fixation on panic about foreign species created a linguistic and conceptual arsenal for anti-immigration movements that flourished in the early twentieth century. Xenophobia inspired concerns about biodiversity, prompting new categories of “native” and “invasive” species that defined groups as bio-invasions to be regulated—or annihilated. By highlighting these connections, Shinozuka shows us that this story cannot be told about humans alone—the plants and animals that crossed with them were central to Japanese American and Asian American history. The rise of economic entomology and plant pathology in concert with public health and anti-immigration movements demonstrate these entangled histories of xenophobia, racism, and species invasions.
    Please see attached excerpt.
    Excerpted with permission from Biotic Borders by Jeannie N. Shinozuka, published by the University of Chicago Press. © 2022 by The University of Chicago. All rights reserved.

Group Conveners

  • amarquez's picture

    Angelica Marquez-Osuna

    Angélica studies the history of Latin America from a global perspective, specializing in environment, race, labor, agriculture and farming practices.

    Her dissertation Colonized Bees in the Tropical Frontier: Beekeeping and Modern Apiculture in the Yucatán Peninsula, Florida, and Cuba from 1760-1940 is about the history of beekeeping practices and industrial apiculture in the context of the Spanish colonization and the development of global capitalism. It focuses on the relocation of the European honeybee Apis Mellifera that did not exist in the Americas before colonization, and the displacement of the native stingless bee Melipona beecheii which is also capable of producing large amounts of honey and wax and has been bred by Maya communities for over 3,000 years in the Yucatán Peninsula. Her research looks at the commonalities, connections, and differences between three locations that were crucial for the development of apiculture in the tropics: Florida, Cuba, and the Yucatán Peninsula. Angélica’s work emphasizes geopolitics, the changing borderlands in the history of colonialism and capitalism in the Americas, and the role of bees and beekeepers in these processes.


  • ddmoore's picture

    Deirdre Moore

    Deirdre Moore received her PhD in the History of Science from Harvard University in 2021 with her dissertation, 'The Heart of Red: Cochineal in Colonial Mexico and India'. Her research focuses on how complex relationships between humans, plants and animals led to the production of valued commodities in the Early Modern period with a concentration on the history of cochineal dye insects in Europe, Asia and the Americas.

    Deirdre's research has been supported by the American Indian Studies Graduate Student Fellowship, Newberry Library, Chicago, the David Rockefeller Center for Latin American Studies Summer Research Grant, the Tyler Fellowship, Garden and Landscape Studies Department, Dumbarton Oaks and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada among others. Her main research interests lie in the Early Modern period, exploring connections in the history and origins of international trade, economic history and the history of entomology and insect interactions with human communities. She also makes films about insects.


55 Members