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Parasitology, Zoology, and Society in France, ca. 1880–1920

Parasitology, Zoology, and Society in France, ca. 1880–1920

(p.206) 8 Parasitology, Zoology, and Society in France, ca. 1880–1920
Biological Individuality
Michael A. Osborne
University of Chicago Press

The phenomena of parasitism, mutualism, commensalism, and symbiosis complicate our ideas of parts and wholes. Focusing primarily on the French Third Republic (1879-1940), this chapter examines the terms parasite and parasitism, their definitions, and broader connections to part-whole relations and dependence across three overlapping realms: biological theorizing about parts and wholes, medical parasitology, and social and political theory. The term parasite, which in antiquity connoted common dining activity free of harm to the participating organisms, acquired new valences in this period. Ultimately in biology, the term has come to imply two things: that parasites cause harm to their hosts and that parasitism is largely, if not exclusively, an interspecific relationship. But the appropriation of biological concepts by promoters of Solidarism, a theory of social cohesion infused with organicism, was selective as regards parasitism where it was applied to human-to-human relationships and thus violated the interspecific consensus established by biologists.

Keywords:   Casimir Davaine, Charles Gide, Edmond Perrier, organicism, parasitism, Raphaël Blanchard, Solidarism, symbiosis, France

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