Microanimism: A Conversation with Siv Watkins about Being in Relationship with the Smalls

Welcome to the world of Microanimism with microbiologist, independent scholar, and ritualist, Siv Watkins, PhD. Siv introduces us to the enigmatic yet ordinary realm of microorganisms, with whom humans have been entangled with since our very beginnings. She says that “the microbial world dares us to identify our human selves within the rest of the living and dying world.”

Listening to Siv, I could feel the crisp lines of my human-centric viewpoint get wondrously blurry. Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:

  • As a young girl, Siv had an intense fear of throwing up and inquisitively threw herself into learning about the dynamics of vomiting, which in turn led her to study pathogenic organisms, toxins, viruses and so on.
  • Every human simultaneously has a unique microbiome and individual relationship with the smalls, while also sharing a connection to the vast, collective ancestral realms of the microbial universe.
  • We hold a misunderstanding of some kind of universal benevolence about the smalls which is just as unhelpful as thinking that they are all out to hurt us. We live in a “kaleidoscopic universe with a range of beings who have a variety of temperaments.”
  • It is impossible to make sweeping generalizations about the microbial universe; they are a bunch of promiscuous sorcerers, genetically switching, swapping, merging, some doubling every 20 minutes, others lying still in the earth's crust neither growing or dividing.
  • Living in a highly faceted universe, so much is unknown and uninterrogated by humanity. If we want to push the boundaries of our limitations we must be willing to explore the more esoteric aspects of scientific understanding, while also respecting the mystery and all that is unattainable to our human understanding.


More about Siv Watkins, PhD:

Microanimism: a platform created by Siv to examine how human beings and human culture engage with microbial organisms

Microanimism Online Courses: Thinking Like a Plague, Microbiological Dark Matter, And So Ad Infinitum (Microanimism Trilogy) Instagram

Other Microanimism interviews to check out



Kendra’s Book Recommendations

I Contain Multitudes – Ed Yong   

Animism: Respecting the Living World – Graham Harvey  

Reasons to Include Viruses in the Tree of Life (scientific article)  

Most Microbial Species are Dark Matter (Scientific American article)  

How the Microbiome Challenges Our Sense of Self (scientific article)