Roundtable: Parasites in pop culture - Science and Culture at Play

Oni demons, parasites, flesh-eating giants, vampires, zombies – global pop culture is rife with monsters. The popularity of this genre is on the increase in our pandemic-riven world. Parasites particularly are ubiquitous, yet their depiction in popular culture has not attracted much attention. An ‘infectant’ that lives in or on another living organism, a parasite transforms its host as it draws on their energy to survive – often to the detriment of the host. So how does the parasite subvert the behaviour of the host, redirect their energies onto a different path, even if that is a path toward destruction?   


Scientists and cultural studies scholars come together to discuss these representations and their impact in our online round table discussion on “Parasites in Popular Culture: Science and Culture at Play”, organised by the ANU Japan Institute!  


Roundtable Program

10 minutes short presentation each followed by discussion  

  • Parasites in Popular Culture – Dr Anna-Sophie Jurgens 
  • The Parasite and The Absorbing Man – DC & Marvel’s Parasitic Villains – Prof Stefan Buchenberger 
  • “Who are the real parasites?” – Sc-fi Horror manga Parasyte – A/Prof Carol Hayes  
  • Parasites – the ‘real’ thing (what Science can tell us) – Prof Alex Maier  


Speakers (alphabetically):  


Stefan Buchenberger is a Professor at the Department of Cross-Cultural Studies of the Kanagawa University. He earned his PhD in Japanese Studies from the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich in 2004. He is involved in the study of graphic narratives at the International Comparative Literature Association (ICLA), where he is co-chair of the Research Committee on Comics Studies and Graphic Narrative. He writes regularly on graphic fiction, on his second major field of study: mystery and detective fiction, and on popular culture and literature in general. 


Carol Hayes is Associate Professor of Japanese Language and Studies in the College of Asia and the Pacific and Distinguished Educator at the Australian National University. Carol is an interdisciplinary scholar whose main area of expertise is in Japanese Language and Studies, with a focus on modern/contemporary cultural production and language teaching methodologies and practice. Recent publications include Japan in Australia (Routledge, 2020) and ‘The Spiritual in the Mundane: The Poetry of the Shikoku O-Henro Pilgrimage’(2021, Palgrave). Hayes, Carol & Seaton, Katherine (2021), ‘A Two-Dimensional Introduction to Sashiko’, Bridges 2020: Mathematics, Art, Music, Architecture, Education, Culture. 


Anna-Sophie Jurgens is a Lecturer in Popular Entertainment Studies at the Australian National Centre for the Public Awareness of Science. She is part of the network of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. She has published on the cultural meanings of science, humour and science, and comic performance and technology in culture across numerous academic journals. Anna-Sophie is guest editor of two special, themed journal issues published in 2020 with the Journal of Science & Popular Culture (on popular performance and science) and Comedy Studies (on violent clowns). Her recent books include Circus, Science and Technology: Dramatising Innovation (editor; Palgrave Macmillan 2020) and Manegenkünste: Zirkus als ästhetisches Modell (coeditor; transcript 2020). 


Alexander Maier is Professor of parasitology at the Research School of Biology, College of Science at the Australian National University. Alex investigates the molecular mechanisms that influence disease outcomes during parasitic infections. His scientific contributions dissecting the host-parasite interactions in malaria are citated in textbooks and led to translational outcomes in the field. He is also very interested in the public perception of parasites, particularly in popular culture. This interest has led to an ongoing collaboration with Anna-Sophie Jürgens (e.g. Love the parasite you’re with). Alex is a spokesperson and program director of an International Research Training Group between the Australian National University and Humboldt-University Berlin and elected Fellow of the Australian Society for Parasitology.  



This seminar will be recorded.


The ANU Japan Institute Seminar Series is supported by the Australian Government through the Australia-Japan Foundation of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. 




Updated:  27 November 2018/Responsible Officer:  JI Management Group/Page Contact:  Japan Institute