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The timeline of the Anthropocene – a geological epoch that Paul Crutzen and Eugene Stoermer say began in the late 18th century with the invention of the steam engine – seems like a brief and inconsequential blip, against the time scales embodied by the microbial communities. Wolbachia bacteria predate Anthropos by some 150 million years, and will likely outlast us. Wolbachia bacteria are worthy of their own geological epoch because they offer a fresh vantage point on one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time: ‘How should we love in a time of extinction?’ Narratives about the Wolbachiacene have the potential to disrupt the overwhelming stories of tragedy orbiting around Anthropos, with disquieting and generative accounts of interspecies romance. Wolbachia often perform queer tricks inside their invertebrate hosts. In some host species these bacteria induce parthenogenesis – completely eliminating males from the population. Wolbachia can also transform genetic males into reproductively viable females.

Original publication




Journal article


Theory, Culture and Society

Publication Date





197 - 219