Indigenous biospecimen collections and the cryopolitics of frozen life

Kowal, Emma and Radin, Joanna 2015, Indigenous biospecimen collections and the cryopolitics of frozen life, Journal of sociology, vol. 51, no. 1, pp. 63-80, doi: 10.1177/1440783314562316.

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Title Indigenous biospecimen collections and the cryopolitics of frozen life
Author(s) Kowal, EmmaORCID iD for Kowal, Emma
Radin, Joanna
Journal name Journal of sociology
Volume number 51
Issue number 1
Start page 63
End page 80
Total pages 18
Publisher SAGE Publications
Place of publication London, Eng.
Publication date 2015-03
ISSN 1440-7833
Keyword(s) Australia
Social Sciences
Summary In the mid-20th century, scientists began to collect and freeze blood samples for a range of purposes. This article considers the broader implications of scientific freezing for conceptions of time and life by drawing on empirical research with scientists associated with a large collection of samples assembled from Indigenous Australians in the 1960s. We first review some key critiques of cryopreservation posed by Indigenous scholars and by science and technology studies. We then propose ‘cryopolitics’ as a concept to express the various political, ethical and temporal conundrums presented by the practice of freezing. We frame cryopolitics as a mode of Michel Foucault’s biopolitics. If biopolitical assemblages make live and let die, cryopolitical ones reveal the dramatic consequences of mundane efforts to make live and not let die. In our case study, we argue that frozen blood vacillates between two cryopolitical states, ‘latent life’ and ‘incomplete death’. Samples seen as latent life cannot be destroyed; samples understood as incomplete death require destruction. A state of incomplete death can be resolved through the return of blood samples to the Indigenous groups they were collected from, a process that has occurred in North America. Our cryopolitical analysis suggests another potential resolution: reviving a form of latent life aligned with futures envisaged by Indigenous communities themselves.
Language eng
DOI 10.1177/1440783314562316
Field of Research 1608 Sociology
2002 Cultural Studies
Socio Economic Objective 970116 Expanding Knowledge through Studies of Human Society
HERDC Research category C1.1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2015, The Author(s)
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