Ontological conjunctions
Dogs, snakes, venoms and germs, 1840–68
in Venomous encounters
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Public demonstrations helped establish the dangerous action of snake venom through the mid-nineteenth century, but they provided little elucidation as to its nature. In the colonial antipodes, there was no inherent nexus governing the fundamental nature of venom. Rather, it occurred at 'working surfaces' comprising intersections between animals, instruments, spaces and discourses, generating novel epistemological and ontological possibilities. The prevailing historical ontology of rabies, an autonomous poison that could pass from animal to animal, and from animal to human, demanded material proof beyond mere testimony. Indeed, the 1860s represented a shifting landscape for exogenous 'germs' as contagium viva. Drawing together dogs, snakes, venoms and germs within a different matrix, a more productive 'choreography of truth' eventuated in Victoria. Reinforcing the endemic disputes between functionalists and structuralists across Victorian comparative anatomy and taxonomy, Alfred Roberts's alternative schema centralised the function of venom.

Venomous encounters

Snakes, vivisection and scientific medicine in colonial Australia


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