On this page, you will find recent announcements from the "Biotechnologies, Nature and Society" research group.

Please visit our archive for past entries.

Thermal Mediation: Critical Temperature Studies and the Digital Cold

Cryosocieties plakat nicole starosielski 2022

Guest lecture by Nicole Starosielski (Associate Professor of Media, Culture & Comm., NYU Steinhardt) on 20 Jan 2022 at 4:15 pm

As part of the lecture series at the research group Biotechnology, Nature and Society and the ERC project CRYOSOCIETIES, we invite you to a guest lecture by Nicole Starosielski (Associate Professor of Media, Culture & Communication, NYU Steinhardt) on "Thermal Mediation: Critical Temperature Studies and the Digital Cold" on 20 January 2022 at 4:15 pm. Following on from her recent book Media Hot & Cold (Duke University Press 2021), Starosielski will theorize thermal mediation, outline the project of critical temperature studies, and analyze the coldward course of digital systems.

Please register with Viona Hartmann ( to receive the zoom link for the event.

Excerpt from the book announcement:

In Media Hot and Cold, Nicole Starosielski examines the cultural dimensions of temperature to theorize the ways heat and cold can be used as a means of communication, subjugation, and control. Diving into the history of thermal media, from infrared cameras to thermostats to torture sweatboxes, Starosielski explores the many meanings and messages of temperature. During the twentieth century, heat and cold were broadcast through mass thermal media. Today, digital thermal media such as bodily air conditioners offer personalized forms of thermal communication and comfort. Although these new media promise to help mitigate the uneven effects of climate change, Starosielski shows how they can operate as a form of biopower by determining who has the ability to control their own thermal environment. In this way, thermal media can enact thermal violence in ways that reinforce racialized, colonial, gendered, and sexualized hierarchies. By outlining how the control of temperature reveals power relations, Starosielski offers a framework to better understand the dramatic transformations of hot and cold media in the twenty-first century.

Organised by Thomas Lemke, Sara Lafuente-Funes, Viona Hartmann, Veit Braun, Ruzana Liburkin

New Publications from Susanne Schultz

Schultz, Susanne 2021: The Neo-Malthusian Reflex in Climate Politics: Technocratic, Right Wing and Feminist References, in: Australian Feminist Studies, DOI: 10.1080/08164649.2021.1995847

Schultz, Susanne 2021: Genetic Racial Profiling. Extended DNA Analyses and Entangled Processes of Discrimination, in: Science and Technology Studies (mit Tino Plümecke und Isabelle Bartram), online:

Schultz, Susanne 2021:The Pandemic State of Care: Care Familialism and Care Nationalism in the COVID-19-Crisis. The Case of Germany in: Historical Social Research (mit Mike Laufenberg), in: Historical Social Research 46 (4): 72-99.

Welcome to Whenever. Exploring Suspended Life in Cryopreservation Practices.

online first from Thomas Lemke

Sage Journals (2021). Welcome to Whenever. Exploring Suspended Life in Cryopreservation Practices. Science, Technology, & Human Values,

online first. DOI: 10.1177/01622439211057860.

The Government of Things. Foucault and the New Materialisms.

Government of things

New book by Thomas Lemke

Materialism, a rich philosophical tradition that goes back to antiquity, is currently undergoing a renaissance. In The Government of Things, Thomas Lemke provides a comprehensive overview and critical assessment of this “new materialism”. In analyzing the work of Graham Harman, Jane Bennett, and Karen Barad, Lemke articulates what, exactly, new materialism is and how it has evolved. These insights open up new spaces for critical thought and political experimentation, overcoming the limits of anthropocentrism.

Drawing on Michel Foucault’s concept of a “government of things”, the book also goes beyond new materialist scholarship which tends to displace political questions by ethical and aesthetic concerns. It puts forward a relational and performative account of materialities that more closely attends to the interplay of epistemological, ontological, and political issues.

Lemke provides definitive and much-needed clarity about the fascinating potential—and limitations—of new materialism as a whole. The Government of Things revisits Foucault’s more-than-human understanding of government to capture a new constellation of power: “environmentality”. As the book demonstrates, contemporary modes of government seek to control the social, ecological, and technological conditions of life rather than directly targeting individuals and populations. The book offers an essential and much needed tool to critically examine this political shift.

Thomas Lemke: The Government of Things. Foucault and the New Materialisms. New York: NYU Press 2021. 

Further Information

Book-Launch: Thomas Lemke’s „The Government of Things“

Government of things

between 5 and 7 pm (Only via Livestream)

Thomas Lemke’s „The Government of Things. Foucault and the New Materialisms“ has just been published by NYU Press. The book launch will include a discussion between Ute Tellmann (Darmstadt), Reiner Keller (Augsburg) and Thomas Lemke on October 29th 2021 between 5 and 7pm. Katharina Hoppe and Frieder Vogelmann will host the event. For registration please send an email to, you will receive the link for the online event just in time for the event.

Beyond reflexivity and representation: diffraction as a methodological sensitivity in science studies

New article by Josef Barla

Against the backdrop of the broad reception of Karen Barad’s framework of agential realism, it comes as a surprise that there has been little discussion so far of her core concept of diffraction in the social studies of science. This article aims to evaluate the methodological potentials of a diffractive approach for science studies. In order to achieve this, I will examine Barad’s take on quantum mechanics, which serves as the foundation for her ethico-onto-epistemological framework of agential realism. In doing so, I will unpack the crucial role played by diffraction in reworking the relation between the objects of observation and the agencies of observation, and subsequently in reshaping the question of the referent of objectivity. Building on this analysis, I propose the notion of the researcher as transducer, demonstrating how such a take allows for the emergence of an understanding of the researcher as themselves materializing in intra-action with other human and more-than-human forces and practices. As I will show, such a diffractive approach not only shifts our attention even more to the performative power of research as a material practice but also to the constitutive nature of knowledge-making practices, along with their ethical and political implications.

Barla, Josef (2021). Beyond reflexivity and representation: diffraction as a methodological sensitivity in science studies. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, DOI: 10.1080/1600910X.2021.1934506.

Further Information

Ensuring public health through mobilizing death: Expectations as future-making practices in the bioeconomy of transgenic mosquitoes

New research project by Josef Barla

Mosquito-borne diseases such as the Zika virus and malaria are increasing dramatically word wide. As traditional methods of vector control prove to be little effective and often harmful to local ecosystems, new approaches are sought for tackling this public health crisis. Amongst the most promising ones are genetic strategies which use the mosquitoes’ own biology and reproductive capabilities against themselves. These approaches not only turn the mosquitoes into a public health tool but also promise the large-scale eradication of mosquito-borne disease. Starting from the hypothesis that rather than only commodifying the vital processes of ‘life itself’ (Franklin; Rose), death and eradication is inscribed into the mosquitoes’ genetic code in order to ensure public health, the aim of my research is twofold: First, I explore the role of expectations as future-making practices in the bioeconomy of transgenic mosquitoes through which not only ‘speculative value’ (Sunder Rajan) is generated but also particular futures made present at the exclusion of others. Second, I argue that these novel genetic strategies mark a broader shift in molecular genetics from the production of ‘biovalue’ (Waldby) to what I will call ‘necrovalue’—that is, the technoscientific mobilization and economization of death itself as that which entails value.

Research funded by Fritz Thyssen Stiftung für Wissenschaftsförderung (Az. Duration 1.10.2021-30.09.2023.

New Materialisms - Book Launch on the 29th of April 2021, at 6 p.m.

Junius presseinfo neue materialismen 02

New book by Katharina Hoppe and Thomas Lemke

On the occasion of the publication of the volume „New Materialisms for Introduction“ by Junius Verlag, we would like to cordially invite you to the digital Book Launch.

This will take place via Zoom on the 29th of April 2021 at 6 p.m. The moderator will be Josef Barla.

Please register for this event by mail:

For the past twenty years or so, an important shift in emphasis has been taking place in the cultural and social sciences: Materialities, objects, and artifacts are receiving increasing scholarly attention and are being reconceptualized. Central to this are the so-called New Materialisms, which examine the dynamic interplay of meaning processes and material assemblages. This introductory volume offers the first overview of central strands of debates in this research perspective. It introduces important representatives of neo-materialism such as Jane Bennett, Karen Barad, Rosi Braidotti, and Donna Haraway and shows its innovative potential as well as analytical inconsistencies and conceptual voids.

200 pages, ISBN 978-3-96060-322-1

Katharina Hoppe / Thomas Lemke

New Materialisms


Making Post/Anthropocentric Futures in Agrobiodiversity Conservation

New Article by Franziska von Verschuer

von Verschuer, Franziska (2021): "Making Post/Anthropocentric Futures in Agrobiodiversity Conservation", Nature and Culture, 16(1), 47-64.

Allowing the Data to 'Speak for Themselves‘

New Article by Jonas Rüppel

Rüppel, Jonas (2021). "Allowing the Data to 'Speak for Themselves‘“. Die Klassifikation psychischer Störungen und das Imaginäre der computationalen Psychiatrie. Psychiatrische Praxis 48(S 01):S16-S20.

"Gouvernementalität" and "Governmentality Studies" in Foucault-Handbuch

Foucault handbuch

New Articles by Thomas Lemke

Lemke, T. (2020). Gouvernementalität. In: Kammler, C., Parr, R. & Schneider, U. J. (Hg.), Foucault-Handbuch. Leben – Werk – Wirkung, Stuttgart/Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 2., aktualisierte und erweiterte Auflage, 303-305.

Lemke, T. (2020). Governmentality Studies. In: Kammler, C., Parr, R. & Schneider, U. J. (Hg.), Foucault-Handbuch. Leben – Werk – Wirkung, Stuttgart/Weimar: J. B. Metzler, 2., aktualisierte und erweiterte Auflage, 437-441.

Thomas Lemke has been appointed to the Bioeconomy Council of the German Federal Government

The Bioeconomy Council advises the Federal Government on the implementation of the “National Research Strategy Bioeconomy 2030” and the “National Policy Strategy on Bioeconomy” with the aim of creating optimum economic and political framework conditions for a biobased economy."

Ecofeminist Futures

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New Article by Viona Hartmann and Katharina Hoppe

Hartmann, Viona und Katharina Hoppe (2020): Ecofeminist Futures. On Politicizing Necessity. engagée 9: 47-51.

Following ‘Fosfo’: Synthetic Phosphoethanolamine and the Transfiguration of Immunopolitics in Brazil

New Article by Márcio Vilar

The chemical substance synthetic phosphoethanolamine (fosfoetanolamina sintética) was developed at the University of São Paulo (USP) in Brazil at the beginning of the 1990s and, until 2014, was tested on and distributed to cancer patients by members of USP’s Chemistry Institute (IQSC) in the city of São Carlos. That year, the production and distribution of ‘Fosfo’, as it became popularly known, was forbidden by IQSC’s director with the support of USP’s rector and the Brazilian National Sanitary Surveillance Agency (ANVISA). Shortly after this first prohibition, however, Fosfo gained popularity and became a national symbol of local scientific innovation and hope for a cancer cure. Likewise, it became an object of regulatory disputes involving multiple sectors of Brazilian society.

Despite several further efforts by some scientists and patients to legitimate Fosfo as a pharmaceutical, ANVISA never authorized it. Nevertheless, at the same time as parts of Brazil’s established medical communities were becoming suspicious of Fosfo, its informal production and dissemination were increasing surreptitiously, with many Fosfo users and stakeholders questioning the legitimacy of conventional cancer therapies.

In this article, Márcio Vilar aims to understand the impact of Fosfo as a biotechnological innovation in terms of the ‘transfiguration’ of the physical and juridical persons involved in this controversy. Through the lens of transfiguration, the engagement and therapeutic-regulatory experiences of Fosfo users and stakeholders appear as deviant journeys that introduce discontinuities into established biomedicine and imply radical transformations at multiple levels, ranging from individuals to larger institutional environments.

Vilar, Márcio (2020): Following ‘Fosfo’: Synthetic Phosphoethanolamine and the Transfiguration of Immunopolitics in Brazil. Medicine Anthropology Theory. Special section on ‘Rethinking Sociality and Health: Transfigurations of Bodies, Practices, and Policies in an Interconnected World. (eds.) Brigit Obrist, Dominik Mattes & Bernhard Hadolt, 7(1): 87-116.

Further Information

The Problem with *Trans: Transcendental Sexuality and the Nature of Techne

*CANCELLED*: Guest lecture by Claire Colebrook (Pennsylvania State University), April 23, 2020

In her lecture, Claire Colebrook pursues the following four questions:

  • Tim Morton recently argued that an understanding of ecology would yield a ’nature’ that is ‘essentially’ queer.  Do such new materialist approaches to life grant too much ethical significance to scientific claims?
  • How do such recent mobilizations of the nature of life break with, or extend, a history of grounding political claims in nature?
  • If modern philosophy is defined as a form of anti-foundationalism, or a suspension and bracketing of the world, to what extent do
       new materialisms require a marriage between politics and nature?
  • Is nature always technical?  

Claire Colebrook is Edwin Erle Sparks Professor of English, Philosophy, and Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University (Pennsylvania, USA). She wrote numerous articles and books on the works of Gilles Deleuze, on sexual difference, feminist ethics and representation as well as on the philosophy of feminist new materialisms. More recently, she has been engaged with climate change and extinction, as well as theorizing the future(s). Together with Tom Cohen, she is the editor of the Critical Climate Change Book Series at Open Humanities Press. She recently completed two books on Extinction for Open Humanities Press: The Death of the Posthuman, and Sex After Life, and has co-authored with Tom Cohen and J. Hillis Miller) Twilight of the Anthropocene Idols (Open Humanities Press, 2016). Currently, she is working a book on the fragility of the species, the archive, and the earth.

The guest lecture will be held April 23, 2020, 4:15 p.m., Hörsaalzentrum, room HZ 13.

See poster

Foucault, política y error

New translation of an article by Thomas Lemke

Lemke, T. (2019). Foucault, política y error. Una revisión crítica de los estudios de gubernamentalidad (translated by Maitén Vargas). Alvo Avellaneda, Guillermo Vega (Hg.), Conductas que importan. Variantes de análisis en los estudios en Gubernamentalidad, Corrientes: Editorial de la Universidad National del Nordeste, 55-75.

Elternwerden zwischen »Babyfernsehen« und medizinischer Überwachung. Eine Ethnografie pränataler Ultraschalluntersuchungen

New Monograph by Eva Sänger

Sänger, Eva (2020): Elternwerden zwischen »Babyfernsehen« und medizinischer Überwachung. Eine Ethnografie pränataler Ultraschalluntersuchungen, Bielefeld: transcript.

Further Information (German)

Cosmologies of Cold

Guest lecture by Joanna Radin (Yale University), December 5, 2019


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.

The ERC-funded research project CRYOSOCIETIES explores the implications of cryopreservation for temporalities and the concept of life. Hence, we are particularly excited to welcome Joanna Radin from Yale University here in Frankfurt. Joanna Radin has generated unique and groundbreaking analytical insights into the modalities and implications of freezing technologies and ‘cryopolitics’. Her talk on December 5 will address “Cosmologies of Cold”, sharing with us some of her internationally renowned research expertise in the realm of cryopreservation.

Joanna Radin is specialized in History and Sociology of Science, with a research focus on biomedicine and biotechnology. She has particular interests in global histories of biology, ecology, medicine, technology, and anthropology since 1945; history and anthropology of life and death; biomedical technology and computing; feminist, indigenous, and queer STS; and science fiction. Her work is central to understanding the role of cryotechnologies in current biomedicine and biotechnologies, particularly through her book Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood (Chicago 2017) which is “the first history of the low-temperature biobank”. She is also co-editor, with Emma Kowal, of Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World (MIT 2017), which considers the technics and ethics of freezing across the life and environmental sciences.

The guest lecture will be held December 5, 2019, 4:15 p.m., room PEG 1.G 107.

See poster

Donna Haraways Gefährt*innen: Zur Ethik und Politik der Verwobenheit von Technologien, Geschlecht und Ökologie

New Article by Katharina Hoppe

Hoppe, Katharina (2019): Donna Haraways Gefährt*innen: Zur Ethik und Politik der Verwobenheiten von Technologien, Geschlecht und Ökologie, in: Feministische Studien 37 (2), pp. 250-268.

Further Information

„More than human“. Konturen eines posthumanistischen Konzepts der Biopolitik

New Contribution by Thomas Lemke

Lemke, T. (2019). „More than human“. Nicole Burzan (Hg.), Komplexe Dynamiken globaler und lokaler Entwicklungen. Verhandlungen des 39. Kongresses der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Soziologie in Göttingen 2018.

Further Information (German)

The homepage of ERC-funded research project "Cryosocieties" has gone online

Cryosocieties: 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.

Further Information

The "LaSST" homepage has gone online

LaSST: Lab for Studies of Science and Technology

The Lab for Studies in Science and Technology (LaSST) is an interdisciplinary research network established in 2019. It brings together sociological, anthropological and geographical expertise to investigate the complex challenges of technoscientific developments in contemporary societies. LaSST is dedicated to initiating collaborative projects in teaching and research, and aims at coordinating the activities of scholars working on science and technology at Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main and beyond.

LaSST hosts the MA program “Science and Technology Studies: Economies, Governance, Life” at the Goethe University Frankfurt. The program is coordinated by the Institute of Cultural Anthropology and European Ethnology, and invites students from inside and outside of Germany to apply.

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Governing through Ethics: the (Neo)liberal challenge to Politics

Guest lecture by Florence Caeymaex (University of Liège), November 7, 2019

As a member of Ethics and Bioethics Committees and as a philosopher, I question how the institutionalization of Ethics has become part of our « ethical life » (Sittlichkeit), changing the meaning of Ethics itself and our expectations about it. Its institutionalization is often seen (and presented) as the result of a historical move within liberal societies — as a choice tool for a democratic "government of sciences and technologies" (Pestre, 2014). However, some tensions within the heterogeneous field of institutional ethical practices (which I will illustrate through two examples) challenge this view, asking for further inquiry into such « government ».

Drawing from Foucault’s analysis of the neoliberal re-programming of the liberal governmentality as well as from more recent analysis of the neoliberal turn (W. Brown), I will try to show how some ethical practices are incorporated into a « governance » framework that both obfuscates its political significance and diminishes its democratic potential. On the occasion of this talk to social sciences scholars, I’d like to address the following question : how could we possibly build a historical & strategical understanding of the emergence of the ethical expertise at the turn of the 70’s?

Florence Caeymaex teaches contemporary political philosophy at the University of Liège (Belgium). Her research in history of philosophy is dedicated to ethical and political aspects of both philosophies of life and philosophies of existence (Bergson, Canguilhem, Foucault, Sartre, Merleau-Ponty) ; her current research concerns the question of Ethics itself, in its relation to politics. This work is partly a reflection on her longstanding experience of Ethics committees within the domains of health and research. FC is vice-president of the Belgian Advisory Committee on Bioethics and of two Research Ethics boards at the University of Liège. She published a number of papers and book chapters of contemporary history of philosophy (mainly in French). Her last publication is a collected essays book on and with Donna Haraway, co-edited with Vinciane Despret and Julien Pieron (Habiter le trouble avec Donna Haraway, éditions Dehors, 2019, in French).

The guest lecture will be held November 7, 2019, 4:15 p.m., room PEG 1.G 107.

Beyond Life and Death. Investigating Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies

New Article by Thomas Lemke

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.

Lemke, Thomas (2019). Beyond Life and Death. Investigating Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies. Soziologie, 48. (4), 450-466.

Further Information (German)

Diffracting AI and Robotics: Decolonial and Feminist Perspectives

Symposium and Workshop, October 11 and 12, 2019

In a striking way, at the very moment intelligent machines are supposed to become a reality, the question what it means to be human and what sociality entails seems to become the focal point in the call for a ‘human centered’ robotics and AI. While recent research more and more demonstrates that robotics and AI often perpetuate gender and racial biases along with social power relations, the question arises how bias and interests built into robots and programmed into AI, both intentionally and unintentionally, can be identified and deprogrammed. Engaging with these questions, decolonializing, feminist, queer, crip and other critical scholars have emphasized the need for a more just and inclusive future of AI and robotics.

The aim of this symposium is to bring together scholars from different fields of study, opening up the space for truly multi-disciplinary engagements with AI promising to provide us with points of departure for relating responsibility, accountability, and social justice as well as ‘our’ history, present, and future with AI differently. In doing so, the symposium will not only emphasize the crucial need for including manifold perspectives and reflecting on who is allowed to be part of these discussions and developments, but also aim at opening up the space for concrete interventions.


11 October 2019 | Renate von Metzler-Saal | Campus Westend | 9am - 6pm

Keynote address: Mitali Thakor (Wesleyan University) on „Robotic Flesh: The Racial Erotics of the Real”


12 October 2019 | SH 5.101 | Campus Westend | 10am - 2pm


Josef Barla (Goethe University Frankfurt) | Pat Treusch (TU Berlin) | Christoph Hubatschke (University of Vienna)

Further Information

We, new utopians... Genome editing and echoes of future life

Workshop, September 17 and 18, 2019

We are living in multiple bio-political potentialities, futures resonating ideas of life-as-it-could-be. Life and bodies seem to have become the materialization of various biotechnological utopias. For fifty years, assorted technologies for human genome editing and DNA repair/ recombination have been used. Particular techniques such as CRISPR-Cas9, TALENs, and zinc finger nucleases have been employed significantly in human genome editing and DNA repair in recent years. The current applications of genome editing and DNA repair technology have provoked significant attention and raised a number of ethical and legal questions. We analyze various economies of hope, hype, expectations, politics, and poetics of promises and better or worse predictions or moral panic from the point of view of sociology, anthropology, and science and technology (STS) studies. Miscellaneous futurities, as material-semiotic reconfigurations, are present in the topics of the current genome editing technologies. We will discuss concrete research cases, fieldwork, projects, and analyses.

Based on encounters with anthropology, sociology, STS, bioethics, and biotech sciences, we meet to bring together various views on questions like:

  • What kinds of biotechnological utopias, spaces of hope and hype, visions, and social innovations do we face today in the context of human genome editing technologies?
  • What kind of objects, un/real, bio-objects, bio-digital, bioinformatics life these emerging technologies represent and constitute? How can we analyze, explore this situation? What methodological dilemma are we facing in this context?
  • What modes of de/politicization are involved in the context of editing genome technologies? Which medicalized social problems are mirrored and created by contemporary editing genome technologies? How personalized medicine does stratify groups of potential patients?
  • And what political and ethical implications and ramifications do these “problem settings” have?

The workshop "We, new utopians/Genome editing and echoes of future life" will be held at Goethe university, research group Biotechnologies, Nature and Society and LaSST (Lab for Studies of Science and Technology), 17-18 September, room SH 5.106, organized from Dr. Eva Šlesingerová, Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow.

Further Information

Eva Sänger will take up a professorship at University of Cologne

Organization, Technology and Gender

Eva Sänger will take up a professorship (W2) for "Organization, Technology and Gender“ in the Faculty of Human Sciences, University of Cologne, starting January 1, 2020.

Going Further: Lebensformen, Politics, and Critique

New Contribution by Thomas Lemke

Lemke, Thomas (2019). Going Further: Lebensformen, Politics, and Critique. In: Graw, I. & Menke, C. (Hg.), The Value of Critique. Exploring the Interrelations of Value, Critique, and Artistic Labour, Frankfurt am Main/ New York. Campus: 120-125.

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Targets and technologies: Sayana Press and Jadelle in contemporary population policies

New Article by Susanne Schultz

In this paper, we argue that target-driven population policy enables the return of technical solutions to reproductive health challenges in the form of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). We examine two Family Planning 2020 (FP2020) commitments related to promotion of the injectable contraceptive Sayana Press and the implant Jadelle. These efforts reintroduce controversial contraceptive methods (Depo-Provera and Norplant); involve public-private partnerships between donors, governments, NGOs and Big Pharma; and facilitate capital accumulation from contraceptive sales in the global South. We employ a demopopulationist lens to highlight the use of neo-Malthusian ideology to justify reducing population growth and engineering population composition. In a geopopulationist frame, Sayana Press and Jadelle reinforce unequal geographies in which the Global North serves as a space of technological innovation and policy-making, and the poorest countries in the Global South, including many in Africa, serve as the laboratory for clinical trials, interventions in fertility, and capital extraction. Finally, the way these contraceptive technologies are promoted harks back to the biopopulationist promise of improving life itself.

Daniel Bendix, Ellen E. Foley, Anne Hendrixson & Susanne Schultz (2019). Targets and technologies: Sayana Press and Jadelle in contemporary population policies. Gender, Place & Culture; A Journal of Feminist Geography.

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The Death of the Clinic? Emerging Biotechnologies and the Reconfiguration of Mental Health

New Contribution by Jonas Rüppel

This guest editorial opens with a brief overview of the transformations of medicine and mental health that can be observed since the second half of the twentieth century. New genetics and biotechnologies hold out the promise of overcoming presumed limitations in the field of mental health care, that is, the fact that diagnostic procedures in psychiatry and clinical psychology still largely rely on the narratives of patients and questionnaires, supposedly subjective assessments by physicians and psychologists. It is envisioned that innovative genetic and proteomic tools, (neuro)imaging technologies, and objective laboratory tests for blood biomarkers will enable better diagnosis and treatment of mental diseases. We argue that emerging biotechnologies do not revolutionize mental health, despite their promise to do so. Instead, we observe a pluralization of research and treatment approaches in the domain of mental health. The second part of this editorial discusses the contributions to this special issue on emerging biotechnologies and mental health and outlines how they address some of the gaps in social studies of psychiatry and mental health in the twenty-first century.

Rüppel, Jonas und Voigt, Torsten H. (Hg.) (2019) Special Issue: The Death of the Clinic? Emerging Biotechnologies and the Reconfiguration of Mental Health. Science, Technology, and Human Values, Vol. 44, Issue 4.

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In risk we trust/Editing embryos and mirroring future risks and uncertainties

New Article by Eva Šlesingerova

Tendencies and efforts have shifted from genome description, DNA mapping, and DNA sequencing to active and profound re-programming, repairing life on genetic and molecular levels in some parts of contemporary life science research. Mirroring and materializing this atmosphere, various life engineering technologies have been used and established in many areas of life sciences in the last decades. A contemporary progressive example of one such technology is DNA editing. Novel developments related to reproductive technologies, particularly embryo editing, prenatal human life engineering, and germline engineering need to be analyzed against the broader social and structural background. The crucial analytical scope for this paper is a specific field: the life-editing technologies used in reproductive medicine and performed experimentally on viable human embryos, particularly CRISPR/Cas9 technology. This text argues that germline editing technologies, as a representative part of contemporary biomedicine, are merging ideas of treatment and enhancement to avoid future risks.

Using this specific life manipulation of embryos and gametes, the text analyzes these processes within the concept of power over life—biopower and the specific governing rationality that imagines, classifies, and governs contemporary societies. The text specifically focuses on the potential to create, define, and manage future risks and uncertainties related to prenatal life.

Šlesingerova, Eva (2019). In risk we trust/Editing embryos and mirroring future risks and uncertainties, In: Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy/A European Journal.

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Responding as Composing: Towards a Post-anthropocentric, Feminist Ethics for the Anthropocene

New Article by Katharina Hoppe

Problems posed by the ‘Anthropocene’ have caused many feminists to rethink a feminist ethics in a post-anthropocentric vein. In this context, a reconceptualization of the notion of responsibility as response-ability or ability to respond has gained crucial relevance. This article reads ethics of response as feminist takes on problems posed by the Anthropocene, but also as attempts to conceptualize a non-normativist ethics working with and beyond post-structuralism. The theoretical challenge faced by a feminist post-anthropocentric ethics, the article argues, was posed by feminist philosopher Rosi Braidotti as a confrontation of ‘affirmation versus vulnerability’. In revisiting this debate, the article situates the notion of response-ability and outlines the theoretical questions which must be dealt with by an ethics of response: an integration of affirmation and negativity on one hand, and the question of the ethical and political implications of thinking from constitutive relationality on the other hand.

By drawing on the work of Isabelle Stengers, the article maps out one possible conceptualization of an ethics of response-ability in more detail. It introduces the etho-ecological practice of responding as composing with otherness, which enables us to conceptualize the notion of response-ability as a concept underpinning a post-anthropocentric, feminist ethics for the Anthropocene.

Hoppe, Katharina (2019). Responding as Composing: Towards a Post-anthropocentric, Feminist Ethics for the Anthropocene, in: Distinktion. Journal of Social Theory.

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The Postgenomic Condition: Truth, Race and Justice After the Genome

Guest lecture by Prof. Jenny Reardon (Santa Cruz), June 12, 2019

The Postgenomic Condition: Truth, Race and Justice After the Genome: At the end of the last millennium, the proposal of the Human Genome Diversity Project and the immanent publication of Herrnstein and Murray’s (1994) controversial bestseller, The Bell Curve, sparked worries that the new science of genomics would reignite scientific racism.   Since WWII, human geneticists have labored to distance the study of human genes from eugenics and the Nazi regime.  Would those efforts, and the possibility of a genomic account of human differences, be undone before  human genome research had even really begun?  To avert this possibility, in the wake of the sequencing of the human genome—or the postgenomic era—genome scientists and their supporters proposed a new ‘democratic’ approach to genomics.  In several high profile cases, they offered to give back to “the people” the power to define themselves, and to control use of their DNA.  Yet the problem of race and racism persisted.  This talk explains how and by what means debates about ‘race’ and racism have remain central and formative of the postgenomic condition.

Guest Lecture by Prof. Jenny Reardon (University of California, Santa Cruz), June 12, 2019, 4:15 p.m., room SH 3.106.

Foucault’s Analysis of Modern Governmentality. A Critique of Political Reason

English Translation of Thomas Lemke's Monograph „Eine Kritik der politischen Vernunft – Foucaults Analyse der modernen Gouvernementalität"

The main thesis of the book is that there is a major transformation in the problematics of power in the work of the French philosopher and historian Michel Foucault which is rarely taken into account. In the centre of this »theoretical displacement« (Foucault) is the notion of government, that is mainly developed in the – still unpublished – 1978 and 1979 lessons at the Collège de France. I try to reconstruct this problematics of government by presenting material which is until now only available on audio tapes in the Foucault archive in Paris and which will appear here for the first time. These lessons are essential to understand Foucaults change of the project of the History of Sexuality and his later interest in pre-Christian forms of subjectivity. It is also essential to make sense of his later differentiation between power and domination and the question of bio-politics.

Lemke, Thomas (2019). A Critique of Political Reason. Foucault’s Analysis of Modern Governmentality, London: Verso.

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Von Sandkörnern und Stolpersteinen. Ein bescheidener Vorschlag zur Zukunft der Science and Technology Studies

New Contribution by Thomas Lemke

Lemke, Thomas (2019). Von Sandkörnern und Stolpersteinen. Ein bescheidener Vorschlag zur Zukunft der Science and Technology Studies. In: Laboratory: Anthropology of Environment / Human Relations (Hg.), After Practice. Thinking through Matter(s) and Meaning Relationally, Vol. I. Berlin: Panama Verlag, 116-124.

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The Speculative Logic of Capitalism. Or, Hyman Minsky as a Social Theorist

Guest Lecture by Prof. Martijn Konings (University of Sydney), May 23, 2019

After the financial crisis of 2007-08, many commentators declared the end of neoliberal, speculative finance and the return of Keynesian policies dedicated to financial suppression and the promotion of real economic growth. As we know, this shift failed to materialize - but it often seems as if those same commentators are now more concerned to emphasize the absurdity of this failure than they are to account for the actual shape of the present by connecting the political volatility of the past decade to the logic of post-crisis capitalism. This talk challenges the idea that the recent history of capitalism is comprehensible on the basis of a distinction between “good finance” (i.e. finance that works in the service of productive activity) and “bad (speculative) finance” and argues that a speculative element is at the very heart of the logic of capital. The good finance / bad finance distinction is often associated with the work of Hyman Minsky, and in this talk I argue that there is another side to Minsky’s work, one that appreciated the speculative nature of economic life in general and is very useful for developing not only a different political economy interpretation but also a critical social theory of present-day capitalism.

Guest lecture by Prof. Martijn Konings, (University of Sydney) Thursday, 2019.05.23, 4 p.m., PEG Room  1.G107, Campus Westend: „The Speculative Logic of Capitalism. Or, Hyman Minsky as a Social Theorist“ Kolloq. Biotechnologies, Nature and Society Research Group.

Martijn Konings is Professor of Political Economy and Social Theory at the University of Sydney. His publications include The Development of American Finance (Cambridge University Press, 2011), The Emotional Logic of Capitalism (Stanford University Press, 2015), Neoliberalism (with Damien Cahill, Polity, 2017), and Capital and Time (Stanford University Press, 2018). With Melinda Cooper he edits the Stanford University Press Currencies: New Thinking for Financal Times; and with Lisa Adkins and Melinda Cooper he is leading a research project on the logic of the contemporary asset economy.

Freezing lives, preserving humanism: Cryonics and the promise of Dezoefication

New Article by Franziska Verschuer

Cryonics denotes research into and the practice of deep-freezing dead bodies for resuscitation in a technologically advanced future. This article discusses the technoscientific practice and rationality of cryonics, focusing on two aspects in particular: the ways in which conceptions of life and death and their relation are being reconfigured, and the cryonic understanding of personality and its relation to the body. It complements the range of topics discussed in the literature on cryonics by adopting a feminist perspective and placing particular emphasis on the importance of taking into consideration the materiality, processuality and relationality of life and death in the cryonic imaginary. The analysis draws on Rosi Braidotti’s adaptation of the conceptual pair of bios and zoe in order to demonstrate that cryonics is premised on the humanist separation of the human as a purely cultural being from ‘Nature’ as his materially determined other(s).

The article argues that cryonics seeks to preserve not only individual lives, but also the increasingly challenged humanist conception of human life as exceptional, self-contained and independent of Nature. The notion of dezoefication is introduced to encapsulate the desire to disentangle the human from (his) nature. Finally, the analysis is complemented with Donna Haraway’s approach to a relational ontology, which emphasizes the vulnerability that is associated with relationality. It thus accounts for the humanist bias against relationality and the fear of death as ‘becoming other’, which are considered to be constitutive of techno-utopian projects such as cryonics.

Verschuer, Franziska (2019). Freezing lives, preserving humanism: cryonics and the promise of Dezoefication. Distinktion: Journal of Social Theory, DOI: 10.1080/1600910X.2019.1610016.

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„Now Is a Time for Optimism”: The Politics of Personalized Medicine in Mental Health Research

New Article by Jonas Rüppel

Since the completion of the Human Genome Project, personalized medicine has become one of the most influential visions guiding medical research. This paper focuses on the politics of personalized medicine in psychiatry as a medical specialty, which has rarely been investigated by social science scholars. I examine how this vision is being sustained and even increasingly institutionalized within the mental health arena, even though related research has repeatedly failed. Based on a document analysis and expert interviews, this article identifies discursive strategies that help to sustain this vision and its promises: “complexity talk,” “extension,” and “boundary work.” These practices secure its plausibility, protect it from criticism, and maintain stakeholder support.

Rüppel, Jonas (2019). „Now Is a Time for Optimism”: The Politics of Personalized Medicine in Mental Health Research. Science, Technology & Human Values.

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The Techno-Apparatus of Bodily Production. A New Materialist Theory of Technology and the Body

New Monograph by Josef Barla

What if the terms "technology" and "the body" did not refer to distinct phenomena interacting in one way or another? What if we understood their relationship as far more intimate – technologies as always already embodied, material bodies as always already technologized? What would it mean, then, to understand the relationship between technology and the body as a relation of indeterminacy? Expanding on the concept of the apparatus of bodily production in the work of Donna Haraway and Karen Barad, Josef Barla explores how material bodies along with their boundaries, properties, and meanings performatively materialize at sites where technological, biological, technoscientific, (bio-)political, and economic forces intra-act.

Barla, Josef (2019). The Techno-Apparatus of Bodily Production. A New Materialist Theory of Technology and the Body, Bielefeld: transcript.

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Wahrsprechen und Bezeugen. Politik der Wahrheit nach Michel Foucault und Donna Haraway

New Contribution Katharina Hoppe

Hoppe, Katharina (2019): Wahrsprechen und Bezeugen. Politik der Wahrheit nach Michel Foucault und Donna Haraway, in: Renate Martinsen, Oliver Marchart (Hg.): Foucault und das Politische. Transdisziplinäre Impulse für die politische Theorie der Gegenwart, Wiesbaden: Springer/VS, S. 161-183.

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„Eine andere Vorgehensweise“. Erfahrung und Kritik bei Foucault

New Contribution by Thomas Lemke

Lemke, Thomas (2019). „Eine andere Vorgehensweise“. Erfahrung und Kritik bei Foucault. In: Marchart, O & Martinsen, R. (ed.), Foucault und das Politische. Transdisziplinäre Impulse für die politische Theorie der Gegenwart. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 23-48.

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Situating biologies – co-laborating with the enemy of critical thought?

Guest lecture by Prof. Jörg Niewöhner (Humboldt-University Berlin), January 31, 2019

Guest lecture by Prof.  Dr. Jörg Niewöhner (Humboldt Universität Berlin), Thursday, January 31, 2019, 4 p.m., room PEG 1.G 107.

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