The project "Protecting Biodiversity, Resisting Extinction" forms part of the ERC-funded research project "CRYOSOCIETIES - Suspended Life: Exploring Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies".
Applications for cryopreservation are not limited to human material.
They also encompass archives collecing gametes, tissue or DNA of plants
and animals. In recent decades, the accelerating extinction of species
has led to an enormous effort to collect and store specimens, relying on
cryotechnological procedures. The aim is to preserve biodiversity by
deep-freezing organic material of endangered or extinct species. Such
cryobanks are more than sites of conservation and storage as they also
provide the material resources for the potential resurrection of extinct
species. These strategies of reanimation—known as “resurrection
biology" or “de-extinction science"—are supposed to “bring back to life"
species that are already extinct by the use of reproductive and genetic
technologies (e.g. embryo transfer, intergenic surrogacy and cloning).
The ethnography in this project focuses on two British initiatives, the Frozen Ark charity and the CryoArks biobank. Observing the activities aimed at halting extinction by securing a frozen “backup" of animal specimens in both projects, it examines the ambivalent prospects of “conservation" and “resurrection" in the cryopreservation of species. The subproject follows the human and non-human actors involved in endeavours to protect and reanimate threatened species. Through participant observation in labs, cryobanks and consortiums as well as through interviews with zoologists, conservation biologists, environmentalists and researchers working in the field of de-extinction science, it explores the ways in which knowledge about the “suspended life" of frozen animal specimens shapes conservation concerns and practices.
In my PhD thesis „Seed at the End of Property: Propertization in Plant Breeding and Its Crises“ I explored the question why plant breeding has been caught up in ever new issues of property for the last 30 years. Drawing on Hannes Siegrsist’s postulation of a „propertisation“ of the mopdern world, I looked at different forms of property in plants – personal property, patents, plant variety protection, hybrid seed and Nagoya rights in genetic resources – as instatiations of the same phenomenon: the continuing efforts to solve social problems by the means of property.
Political debates about access to as well as the right form for property show that property in plant has become an instrument in plant breeding which creates more problems than it is able to solve. Nevertheless, actors in the seed sector cling to the idea of property – for them, there is no alternative social form in sight. While property may have exhausted its potential as a social technology, we are far from any „post-property“ society: property remains a powerful social fiction.
„New Materialisms and the Environmental Humanities“, symposium and workshop at the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, LMU Munich, 14.–15. September 2017. (Co-organisor)
BMBF project „The Language of Biofacts“ – sub-project „Intellectual property in natural objects: diverging taxonomies of plant variety and patent protection“ (2015–2017)
Dr. Veit Braun
Faculty of Social Sciences
Institute of Sociology
Research Group Biotechnologies,
Nature and Society
Campus-Westend – PEG-Building
Room 3.G 072
60323 Frankfurt am Main
PEG - internal post 31
60629 Frankfurt am Main
Tel. +49 69 798 36527