Cryopreservation practices are an essential dimension of contemporary life sciences. They make possible the freezing and storage of cells, tissues and other organic materials at very low temperatures and their subsequent thawing at a future date without apparent loss of vitality. Although cryotechnologies are fundamental to reproductive technologies, regenerative medicine, transplantation surgery and conservation biology, they have largely escaped scholarly attention in science and technology studies, anthropology and sociology.
CRYOSOCIETIES is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) within the Advanced Grant scheme (Grant Agreement number: 788196; PI: Thomas Lemke). It explores the implications of cryopreservation for temporalities and the concept of life. The project argues that in contemporary societies, cryopreservation practices bring into existence a new form of life: “suspended life”. “Suspended life” enables vital processes to be kept in a liminal state in which biological substances are neither fully alive nor dead.
CRYOSOCIETIES generates profound empirical knowledge about the creation of “suspended life” through three ethnographic studies that investigate various sites of cryopreservation. A fourth subproject develops a complex theoretical framework in order to grasp the temporal and spatial regimes of different cryopractices.