Suspended Life - Exploring Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies

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. 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 explores the crucial role of cryopreservation in affecting temporalities and the concept of life. The 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 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 the different cryopractices.

Cryosocieties breaks analytical ground in three important ways. First, the project provides the first systematic and comprehensive empirical study of “suspended life” and deepens our knowledge of how cryopreservation works in different settings. Secondly, it undertakes pioneering work on cryopreservation practices in Europe, generating novel ways of understanding how “suspended life” is assembled, negotiated and mobilised in European societies. Thirdly, CRYOSOCIETIES develops an innovative methodological and theoretical framework in order to address the relationality and materiality of cryopreservation practices and to explore the concept of vitality and the politics of life in the 21st century.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Thomas Lemke Researchers: Dr. Sara Lafuente Funes, Veit Braun, Ruzana Liburkina
Project duration: 2019-2024

Further information: Project Homepage and Fact Sheet


POLAR (Polarization and its discontents: does rising economic inequality undermine the foundations of liberal societies?)

Das Projekt wird sich mit der Frage befassen, ob die zunehmende ökonomische Ungleichheit dazu beiträgt, wichtige Grundpfeiler westlich-liberaler Gesellschaften zu unterminieren. Markus Gangl und sein Projektteam werden Befragungsdaten aus etwa 30 Ländern nutzen, um mögliche negative Auswirkungen steigender Ungleichheit für soziale Mobilität, gesellschaftlichen Zusammenhalt und für die Zustimmung zu demokratischen Werten und Institutionen empirisch zu erfassen. 

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Markus Gangl
Project duration:


CORRODE: Corroding the social? An empirical evaluation of the relationship between unemployment and social stratification in OECD countries

The project aims to deliver a comprehensive evaluation of the relationship between unemployment and social stratification in Europe and North America. Our core goal is to provide empirical estimates of the causal impact of unemployment on four critical domains of social life, namely household incomes, demographic behaviour, educational attainment, as well as social integration and civic participation. Our research will examine the persistence of such effects in the medium and longer run, and will evaluate the role of moderating factors like coupled unemployment and unemployment duration. The distinction between the stratification impacts of household experiences of unemployment and those of aggregate macroeconomic conditions will be a particular focus in the analysis, as will be the evaluation of a mediation model including changing household incomes, changing economic expectations and changing norms and preferences as relevant factors. The project will also address heterogeneity in the effects of unemployment e.g. by level of education, household demographics, household income or social class, and will evaluate the extent of cross-country variation in the impacts of unemployment, as well as any mitigating role of labour market and social policies, along the four dimensions of stratification considered. The empirical analysis rests on cross-nationally harmonized multilevel life course datasets constructed from various representative household panel studies, notably the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC), the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) and several national panel studies, merged with time-series data on aggregate unemployment at the regional level. To achieve robust causal inference, the project utilizes multilevel panel data modelling, notably two-way fixed-effects and related estimators that statistically control for unobserved heterogeneity at both the household and contextual level.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Markus Gangl
Project duration: 2014-2019


ARTENGINE: Artificial Life/Anthropological and Sociological Analysis of Life Engineering

The project addresses contemporary challenges in the field of reproductive and genetic technologies from a sociological and anthropological perspective. It consists of case studies in two European countries: Germany and the Czech Republic. The research will focus on the practices of PGD (preimplantantion genetic diagnosis) in the two countries. There is a lack of reflection on the broader social and cultural context and on the ramifications of life engineering and PGD in the Czech Republic from the anthropological and sociological points of view. These issues remain unanalysed, contributing to a lack of understanding of the specific concerns of the life sciences in the Eastern European and post-socialist context. This proposed project will compare the material practices of PGD in the Czech Republic to the German case.

The research is guided by two main objectives. First, it will explore the social and cultural background and the specific concerns of the use of PGD in the European context. Second, it will analyse the cultural and social practices and forms of agency, naming, defining, and dealing with engineered life within PGD. The research will be based on a broad range of qualitative sociological and ethnographic methods, combining traditional techniques such as semi-structured interviews, ethnographic observations, and critical discourse analysis as well as innovative methods such as digital sociology and multi-sited and multi-species ethnography.

Project leader: Prof. Dr. Thomas Lemke Researcher: Eva Šlesingerová
Project duration: 2017-2019
Fundation: Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship/ Horizon 2020

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