Beyond Life and Death

Investigating Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies

  • Thomas Lemke
Schlagworte: Kryotechnologie, Forschung, Projekt


Der Beitrag stellt Ausgangsüberlegungen des Projekts CRYOSOCIETIES vor, das vom Europäischen Forschungsrat gefördert wird. Das Projekt untersucht die soziomateriellen Dimensionen der Sammlung, Lagerung und Nutzung von menschlichem und nicht-menschlichem organischen Material durch Verfahren des (Tief-)Kühlens und Gefrierens – die sogenannten Kryotechnologien. Es geht von der Annahme aus, dass kryobiologische Praktiken eine spezifische Form des Lebens hervorbringen: »suspendiertes Leben« (»suspended life«). Dessen Eigenart besteht darin – so die These des Projekts –, dass es vitale Prozesse in einem Schwebezustand zwischen Leben und Tod hält und konventionelle Zeit- und Raumkonzepte rekonfiguriert.
Im Mittelpunkt des Beitrags steht die Vorstellung der drei empirischen Teilprojekte, die untersuchen, wie »suspendiertes Leben« in aktuellen Praktiken der Kryokonservierung hervorgebracht wird. Bei der ersten Fallstudie geht es um das Feld der regenerativen Medizin und das Einfrieren von Nabelschnurblut, die zweite fokussiert auf individuelle Reproduktionsentscheidungen bzw. das zeitliche Hinausschieben der Realisierung des Kinderwunsches durch das Einfrieren von Eizellen; die dritte Fallstudie beschäftigt sich mit der Einrichtung sogenannter »Frozen Zoos« zum Erhalt bedrohter Tierarten. Das Fazit am Schluss stellt noch einmal die zentralen Merkmale und die Herausforderungen des aktuellen Forschungsvorhabens dar.

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 the subsequent thawing of these at a future date without apparent loss of vitality. The article presents some initial ideas and central theses of a research project recently funded by the European Research Council (ERC). The CRYOSOCIETIES project is based on the thesis 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 examines the creation of »suspended life« through three ethnographic studies that investigate various sites of cryopreservation. The first deals with cord blood banking with the promise to store vitality and ensure health; the second addresses oocyte freezing to extend fertility and rearrange reproductive futures, while the third case study focuses on the emergence of »frozen zoos«, that is to say cryobanks which seek to preserve organic material of endangered or extinct animal species. The conclusion highlights the central aspects of the proposed project and points to further directions of research.


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