The immune self, hygiene and performative virtue in general public narratives on antibiotics and antimicrobial resistance

Mark D.M. Davis, Davina Lohm, Paul Flowers, Andrea Whittaker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


This paper employs an assemblage lens to generate analyses of general public narratives on antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Global efforts to reduce AMR include communications aiming to promote general public awareness, provide knowledge, encourage careful antibiotics use, and discourage demands for them. These efforts are somewhat compromised by the assumptions they make of individual lack of knowledge and motivation and the manner in which the AMR problem is framed in isolation from the biological, social and economic structures that produce it. Conceptualising AMR as an effect of antimicrobial assemblages of which publics are but one part, we analysed interviews with the general public on the lived experience of infections, antibiotic treatments and AMR. Far from science and policy discourse on AMR, these narratives showed antibiotics to be partly solutions to the social and biomedical challenges of infection, framed by self-defensive immunity and hygiene, the affective benefits of ‘immune boosting’, and the imperative to sustain the moral standing of the healthy citizen. Failing public awareness and action on AMR can be attributed to public health messages that overlook the social, affective and moral dimensions of infection care and separate AMR from its socio-economic drivers.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages17
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2021


  • experiencing illness and narratives
  • narrative analysis
  • primary care

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