Forthcoming in 2021

Parasite: A Philosophical Exploration


On the film Parasite by Bong Joon-Ho (2019)


Book edited by Thorsten Botz-Bornstein and Giannis Stamatellos



Brill "Philosophy of Film" Series



The first English language book on a single Korean film!

“The world of parasites constitutes perhaps one of the most exciting chapters of biology

because it introduces the reader into the vast field of philosophical reflections”

Argentinian parasitologist Juan Jose Boero

Parasite is the highest-grossing Korean film, won four Oscars, and is the first non-English film to win an Oscar for Best Picture. It is also a philosophically very interesting film because it presents the ethico-biological problem of parasitism in an artistic and metaphorical fashion. The original concept of παρασιτῶ means to “board or lodge with,” and it has been dealt with in ancient political philosophy, modern philosophy of science, and ethics, from the Stoics through Marx to Nietzsche. Lucian’s (125–180 AD) De Parasito can almost be read as a commentary of the film, as he satirically defends the art of parasitism. For the Romans, the parasitus was not strictly pejorative but simply a person living off the hospitality of others in return for flattery. The parasite is not necessarily a thief, but can be a seducer, a creator, a companion, or a mimic… The discussion about friendship and flattery has a long history in philosophy. Note, for example, Plutarch’s influential “How to Tell a Flatterer from a Friend.” For Nietzsche, the parasite is the priest, but parasitism is also the vengeance of the weak. According to Maoist ideology, the parasites are the rich, but others would say it’s the poor.


Michel Serres, in his book on chaos theory called The Parasite, holds that parasites are not useless, but that they establish communication between different spheres and transform the picture of the whole. They push development towards the organic. Parasites bring in coincidences, without which development would be too straightforward. Parasites activate defense systems by creating perpetual tension. New links with the host need to be established. Very similarly, Mario Coccia’s provocative “technological parasitism” explains technical evolution through systems and parasitic subsystems.




  1. Steve Choe: The Paradoxical Universal of Korean Cinema

  2. Daniel Regnier: From Superfluous to Parasitic: Russian Literature, Arendt, and Korean Modernity

  3. Richard McDonough: Notes from the (Korean) Underground: Being is Being-a-Parasite 

  4. Paolo Stellino: Mice and Cockroaches. Parasite through Nietzsche and Dostoevsky

  5. Daniel Conway: The Parasite’s Dilemma

  6. Thorsten Botz-Bornstein: Parasitism beyond Ethics

  7. Tony Partridge: Parasite Viewed in the Context of Pasolini’s Theorem and Deleuze’s Filmic Theories

  8. Vincenzo Lomuscio: Parasite: A Predicative or a Substantial Concept?

  9. Giannis Stamatellos: A System of Apprehensions: The Art of Parasitism in Lucian’s De Parasito and Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite

  10. Hyun Kang Kim:  The Parasite is the Truth of the System

  11. Enrico Terrone: Parasites, Disaster Movies, and Social Catastrophes

  12. Hye Seung Chung:  From Parasites to Monsters: Unfulfilled Promises of Serres’ Parasitism in Bong Joon-ho’s Social Allegories

  13. Michael Weinman and Shai Biderman: Symbiosis, Interruption, and Exchange: Parasite after Serres’s Parasite

  14. Seung-hoon Jeong:  Parasite as Pharmakon: The (Im-)Possibility of Feeding in the Ethical Paradigm of Global Economy

  15. Michelle Buchberger: Parasite as a Critique of Neoliberalism



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Lucian, author of The Parasite