Chemosociality in Multispecies Worlds: Endangered Frogs and Toxic Possibilities in Sydney, Australia
Chemosocial communities have formed in Sydney, Australia, as a result of encounters with industrial pollution. If biosociality involves social relationships that emerge from biological conditions, then chemosociality involves altered, attenuated, or augmented relationships that emerge with chemical exposures. Some social groups have coalesced around place-based political action, while other chemosocial associations have proved to be ephemeral, evanescent, and conditional. Building on earlier work by multispecies ethnographers who have studied social relationships among humans and animals, this article follows chemicals into more than human realms. Fragile multispecies worlds have emerged in a complex landscape shaped by chemical weapons industries, municipal landfills, government remediation programs, real estate speculation, and a multitude of chemical and biological agents. Legacy dumping grounds in the Sydney Olympic Park have become habitat for the Green and Golden Bell Frog, an endangered species. While the normal world order of this frog has been lost, with the spread of a deadly fungal disease, toxic chemicals have enabled for the continuation of its social life. Temporary spaces of immunity have emerged where life is protected and threats are negated by poisonous compounds that double as a cure.