Research Expertise

  • Science & Technology Studies
  • Economic anthropology and the sociology of markets
  • Practice theories
  • Theories of responsibility
  • Ethnographic methodology and methods
  • Organizational studies
  • Ecological anthropology

Storing Vitality, Ensuring Health

Postdoc Project

The project "Storing Vitality, Ensuring Health" forms part of the ERC-funded research project "CRYOSOCIETIES - Suspended Life: Exploring Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies".

Umbilical cord blood (UCB) is a rich source of haematopoietic (i.e. blood-forming) stem and progenitor cells used in treating a variety of serious disorders. Collection takes place by immediate clamping of the umbilical cord after birth. In the early 2000s, regenerative medicine emerged as a promissory biomedical field and speculation about future treatments using stem cells fuelled the rapid rise of commercial cord blood banking. Private cryobanks provide services for autologous applications (i.e. using one’s own UCB) for either specific disease indications (cancer or rare genetic diseases) or anticipated regenerative therapies that might be available in the future (to cure conditions ranging from tissue damage to neurodegenerative diseases to blood disorders).

The ethnographic study in this subproject will focus on the speculative value of cryopreserved UCB. By exploring the promissory dimensions of cryopreserved UCB in Germany, this case study will examine the regimes of prevention informing UCB banking. Focusing on a country with a long tradition in “social insurance” and a comparatively conservative regulatory framework in using biological material, this case study is uniquely placed to explore how the “suspended life” of UCB intersects with moral, religious, political and commercial practices. Fieldwork will be done in facilities of private and public UCB banks in Germany. It will include participant observation of the collection, testing, processing, freezing, storage and use of UCB as well as interviews with women who have banked in the cord blood banks under investigation, with staff and lab scientists involved with the processing and cryopreservation of UCB and with healthcare providers who have assisted with UCB collection.


Further Information


Anthropologising Workaday Worlds along Two Food Supply Chains

Doctoral Research Project (cuncluded)

“Anthropologising Workaday Worlds along Two Food Supply Chains: An Ethnographic Inquiry into Responsibility Relations and Growth” (funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation)