RSB Directors Seminar: The Parasite as Performer

“I live off them, they live off me” – Parasites, Clowns and the Circus

The parasite’s footprints can be seen everywhere, for example in genetics, epidemiology, medicine, history – and, as this seminar clarifies, parasites play a vivid part in our cultural imagination. Drawing on trailblazing studies of the parasite as a cultural force, this seminar explores the interplay between biological parasites, circus arts and their comic emblem, the clown, in different narratives and media. What kind of cultural work does the parasite do in popular entertainments? What parasites have produced comic cultural fantasies? This seminar documents not only fantasies of a collaborative relationship between flea performers and their masters, and of the relationship between clowns and parasites, both of which are mischievous characters, but also circus-related imaginaries of parasitic remote control. It also illuminates the mysterious genre of flea porn.
 -- This presentation is based on a collaboration between A/Prof Alexander Maier (Parasitology) and Dr Anna-Sophie Jürgens (Popular Entertainment Studies/Comparative Literature). –