Multispecies Entanglements in the Virosphere: Rethinking the Anthropocene in Light of the 2019 Coronavirus Outbreak

Aronsson, Anne; Holm, Fynn (2020). Multispecies Entanglements in the Virosphere: Rethinking the Anthropocene in Light of the 2019 Coronavirus Outbreak. The anthropocene review, 9(1), pp. 24-36. Sage 10.1177/2053019620979326

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In this essay, we reevaluate the 2019 outbreak of a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) from the perspective of multispecies entanglements. It is argued that anthropogenic alterations in the biosphere will most likely accelerate the rate of multispecies pandemics in the Anthropocene. Using a textual analysis approach of anthropological and historical sources on the example of coronaviruses and live animal markets in China, we trace how the virosphere of wild animals from tropical regions comes into contact with the virosphere of humans and farmed animals in highly industrialized landscapes. We suggest that adopting a multispecies perspective on viruses can allow them to be understood as living processes that interact with other species in a realm called the virosphere. The rate at which novel infectious diseases are transmitted by bacteria and viruses has increased in recent decades. We argue that this is caused by side effects of the Anthropocene, such as deforestation, the surge in population growth and density, and anthropogenic climate change, which give rise to an increased number of unusual encounters between humans, nonhuman companion species, and wild animals. In this way, the virospheres of host organisms, which were formerly partly isolated, are allowed to converge and freely exchange infectious diseases, leading to a more homogenized virosphere. As anthropogenic alterations are set to continue in the future, we suggest that multispecies pandemics will likely increase in the following decades.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Art and Cultural Studies > Institute of Social Anthropology

UniBE Contributor:

Aronsson, Anne


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology








Anja Julienne Wohlgemuth

Date Deposited:

17 Feb 2021 12:11

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:42

Publisher DOI:


Additional Information:

Co-author publication based on “Toward an Understanding of Nonhuman Minds: From Animal to Artificial Agency” conference




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