Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood

University of Chicago Press
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After the atomic bombing at the end of World War II, anxieties about survival in the nuclear age led scientists to begin stockpiling and freezing hundreds of thousands of blood samples from indigenous communities around the world. These samples were believed to embody potentially invaluable biological information about genetic ancestry, evolution, microbes, and much more. Today, they persist in freezers as part of a global tissue-based infrastructure. In Life on Ice, Joanna Radin examines how and why these frozen blood samples shaped the practice known as biobanking.

The Cold War projects Radin tracks were meant to form an enduring total archive of indigenous blood before it was altered by the polluting forces of modernity. Freezing allowed that blood to act as a time-traveling resource. Radin explores the unique cultural and technical circumstances that created and gave momentum to the phenomenon of life on ice and shows how these preserved blood samples served as the building blocks for biomedicine at the dawn of the genomic age. In an era of vigorous ethical, legal, and cultural debates about genetic privacy and identity, Life on Ice reveals the larger picture—how we got here and the promises and problems involved with finding new uses for cold human blood samples.
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About the author

Joanna Radin is assistant professor of the history of medicine at Yale University, where she also holds appointments in history and anthropology.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Mar 27, 2017
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9780226448244
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Language
English
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Genres
History / United States / 20th Century
Medical / History
Science / General
Science / History
Technology & Engineering / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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The social, political, and cultural consequences of attempts to cheat death by freezing life.

As the planet warms and the polar ice caps melt, naturally occurring cold is a resource of growing scarcity. At the same time, energy-intensive cooling technologies are widely used as a means of preservation. Technologies of cryopreservation support global food chains, seed and blood banks, reproductive medicine, and even the preservation of cores of glacial ice used to study climate change. In many cases, these practices of freezing life are an attempt to cheat death. Cryopreservation has contributed to the transformation of markets, regimes of governance and ethics, and the very relationship between life and death. In Cryopolitics, experts from anthropology, history of science, environmental humanities, and indigenous studies make clear the political and cultural consequences of extending life and deferring death by technoscientific means.

The contributors examine how and why low temperatures have been harnessed to defer individual death through freezing whole human bodies; to defer nonhuman species death by freezing tissue from endangered animals; to defer racial death by preserving biospecimens from indigenous people; and to defer large-scale human death through pandemic preparedness. The cryopolitical lens, emphasizing the roles of temperature and time, provokes new and important questions about living and dying in the twenty-first century.

Contributors
Warwick Anderson, Michael Bravo, Jonny Bunning, Matthew Chrulew, Soraya de Chadarevian, Alexander Friedrich, Klaus Hoeyer, Frédéric Keck, Eben Kirksey, Emma Kowal, Joanna Radin, Deborah Bird Rose, Kim TallBear, Charis Thompson, David Turnbull, Thom van Dooren, Rebecca J. H. Woods

Thirty years ago, the most likely place to find a biologist was standing at a laboratory bench, peering down a microscope, surrounded by flasks of chemicals and petri dishes full of bacteria. Today, you are just as likely to find him or her in a room that looks more like an office, poring over lines of code on computer screens. The use of computers in biology has radically transformed who biologists are, what they do, and how they understand life. In Life Out of Sequence, Hallam Stevens looks inside this new landscape of digital scientific work. Stevens chronicles the emergence of bioinformatics—the mode of working across and between biology, computing, mathematics, and statistics—from the 1960s to the present, seeking to understand how knowledge about life is made in and through virtual spaces. He shows how scientific data moves from living organisms into DNA sequencing machines, through software, and into databases, images, and scientific publications. What he reveals is a biology very different from the one of predigital days: a biology that includes not only biologists but also highly interdisciplinary teams of managers and workers; a biology that is more centered on DNA sequencing, but one that understands sequence in terms of dynamic cascades and highly interconnected networks. Life Out of Sequence thus offers the computational biology community welcome context for their own work while also giving the public a frontline perspective of what is going on in this rapidly changing field.
The origin of life is a hotly debated topic. The Christian Bible states that God created the heavens and the Earth, all in about seven days roughly six thousand years ago. This episode in Genesis departs markedly from scientific theories developed over the last two centuries which hold that life appeared on Earth about 3.5 billion years ago in the form of bacteria, followed by unicellular organisms half a millennia later. It is this version of genesis that Alexandre Meinesz explores in this engaging tale of life's origins and evolution.
How Life Began elucidates three origins, or geneses, of life—bacteria, nucleated cells, and multicellular organisms—and shows how evolution has sculpted life to its current biodiversity through four main events—mutation, recombination, natural selection, and geologic cataclysm. As an ecologist who specializes in algae, the first organisms to colonize Earth, Meinesz brings a refreshingly novel voice to the history of biodiversity and emphasizes here the role of unions in organizing life. For example, the ingestion of some bacteria by other bacteria led to mitochondria that characterize animal and plant cells, and the chloroplasts of plant cells. As Meinesz charmingly recounts, life’s grandeur is a result of an evolutionary tendency toward sociality and solidarity. He suggests that it is our cohesion and collaboration that allows us to solve the environmental problems arising in the decades and centuries to come. Rooted in the science of evolution but enlivened with many illustrations from other disciplines and the arts, How Life Began intertwines the rise of bacteria and multicellular life with Vermeer’s portrait of Antoni van Leeuwenhoek, the story of Genesis and Noah, Meinesz’s son’s early experiences with Legos, and his own encounters with other scientists. All of this brings a very human and humanistic tone to Meinesz’s charismatic narrative of the three origins of life.
The social, political, and cultural consequences of attempts to cheat death by freezing life.

As the planet warms and the polar ice caps melt, naturally occurring cold is a resource of growing scarcity. At the same time, energy-intensive cooling technologies are widely used as a means of preservation. Technologies of cryopreservation support global food chains, seed and blood banks, reproductive medicine, and even the preservation of cores of glacial ice used to study climate change. In many cases, these practices of freezing life are an attempt to cheat death. Cryopreservation has contributed to the transformation of markets, regimes of governance and ethics, and the very relationship between life and death. In Cryopolitics, experts from anthropology, history of science, environmental humanities, and indigenous studies make clear the political and cultural consequences of extending life and deferring death by technoscientific means.

The contributors examine how and why low temperatures have been harnessed to defer individual death through freezing whole human bodies; to defer nonhuman species death by freezing tissue from endangered animals; to defer racial death by preserving biospecimens from indigenous people; and to defer large-scale human death through pandemic preparedness. The cryopolitical lens, emphasizing the roles of temperature and time, provokes new and important questions about living and dying in the twenty-first century.

Contributors
Warwick Anderson, Michael Bravo, Jonny Bunning, Matthew Chrulew, Soraya de Chadarevian, Alexander Friedrich, Klaus Hoeyer, Frédéric Keck, Eben Kirksey, Emma Kowal, Joanna Radin, Deborah Bird Rose, Kim TallBear, Charis Thompson, David Turnbull, Thom van Dooren, Rebecca J. H. Woods

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