Eben Kirksey is a permanent faculty member in Environmental Humanities at UNSW Australia and a Visiting Research Scholar at The Graduate Center, City University of New York. He is the editor of The Multispecies Salon and the author of Freedom in Entangled Worlds: West Papua and the Architecture of Global Power, both also published by Duke University Press.
Ectatomma ants forage for insects at night under electric lights, glean sugary liquid honeydew from leafhoppers, and communicate with caterpillars with high-pitched stridulatory sounds. Proliferating within the realm of agricultural and industrial enterprises, these insects also became tenacious parasites. These ants are constantly moving among multiple elements, never sticking to just one environment. In a phrase, Ectatomma ants have become ontological amphibians. Literal amphibians can choose among modes of existence—they can live both on earth and in water. Ontological amphibians never stick to just one world, but always face a decision about what kind of ontology to inhabit. Tracing actions oriented to the care of beings and things, often across species lines, this chapter considers how Ectatomma ants enlist others in the production of common worlds, and how they escape. These ants have fleeting whims, sentiments about the distribution of surplus that are beyond rational calculus.