Tag Archives: News

Statement of the new President

A new chapter begins in my life as I assume the role of president elect of EASST, becoming the new president when Ulrike Felt steps down in a year. I want to thank Ulrike for suggesting that I run for office – and also for her tireless work on behalf of EASST. She is a very tough act to follow. And I am grateful to all of you who put your trust in me. While there was no other candidate :), you have still chosen to vote for me – rather than against. Let me formulate a few words of what you can expect from my presidency. 

Over the years STS has developed into a community of concerned academic citizens with a plethora of interesting tales to tell. Some of us have disciplinary homes within STS departments, educational programmes and groups. Many others are living our academic lives in diverse constellations, where we might feel like visitors and sometimes even intruders. EASST serves a crucial role as a home for us all and a place where we can talk together in our shared languages about issues that concern us. Such a disciplinary home away from home is important – now more than ever as changing career structures and evaluation practices might threaten to marginalize our scholarly activities. 

As a professor at the Technical University of Denmark (DTU), I myself experience contradictory influences. On the one hand, a professorship is a rather secure academic position with a lot of autonomy and I cherish this privileged position. On the other hand, DTU does not provide a disciplinary programme or department in STS. What I and my colleagues have to do is to translate our knowledge and make it associable with DTU’s core activities. I enjoy this process, but it also adds to the importance of having a scholarly home in STS elsewhere. In this regard, EASST is crucial. 

I believe STS knowledge and methodologies can make crucial contributions to all of the most fundamental societal crises that we currently face. To do this, we need to make our voice heard outside of our own journals, conferences and academic circles. STS was founded on interdisciplinary research and most of us are very familiar with disciplinary boundary-spanning. However, I believe we can do more to be heard outside of academia and to have greater impact in policy formulation, public discussion, social and industrial innovation and general public engagement with science and technology. We need to raise awareness of our field and its knowledge contribution. Mostly because we have important contributions to make to social and public solution making. But also because we want our field to flourish and grow. 

As president, I will continue the excellent work of the previous president and Council to 1) strengthen the public voices of STS in matters of concern, 2) create more opportunities and venues for us to support each other as a community (to learn, to engage and to have fun), and 3) to diversify further the membership of our society and facilitate inclusive networking. In particular, I would like to initiate a discussion of our meeting structure, as I believe that the time has come for us to consider having an annual meeting of EASST. Sure, it will be more work. However, I think we have all learned from this last year’s experience that we need to gather physically to enjoy good company and stimulating discussions. We also have to provide a place for junior scholars to be integrated into the wider academic community. Finally, in the face of the climate crisis we might appreciate using trains instead of intercontinental flights to achieve our scholarly and collegial fix. 

Another ambition of mine is to strengthen the collaboration with national and regional STS organisations in order to form a strong European network of STSers. Some countries in Europe have well-established associations and a strong trajectory of STS research. Other countries less so. Let us discuss how we can better support each other’s activities.  

EASST is a shared resource for all. I am eager to hear from members how you would like to see EASST develop and what kinds of support you need the most. After all, you are EASST. I look forward to working with all of you. 

EASST election results

Dear Members of EASST,

I am delighted to inform you of the results of the election for EASST Council.

President: Maja Horst
Council Members: Nina Klimburg-Witjes, Sarah de Rijcke, Filip Vostal, Michela Cozza, and Brice Laurent
Student Representative: Sarah Rose Bieszczad

We will have a meeting in late March/early April to ‘hand over’ to the incoming Council members (who will join Richard Tutton and Annalisa Pelizza who will stay on Council for another 2 years).

Please join me in congratulating the successful candidates and thanking the other candidates for standing for election. I know I will be leaving Council in good hands.

All the best,
Ulrike Felt
President of EASST

Special general meeting of EASST members

Dear EASST members

I write to inform you that the EASST Council has called for a Special General Meeting of EASST Members on December 4, 2020 from 1-3pm (CET). View the agenda with a zoom link for the meeting.

The 2020 virPrague EASST/4S conference happened under exceptional circumstances.  While the EASST General Meeting went through the agenda and reported on all essential points, it had to be done in a rather speedy manner.  Council thought that there were several aspects which would deserve discussion with our membership in a framework that gives us a bit more time (2 hours).  Furthermore there is the suggestion for an amendment of the constitution which needs voting by members.

You are cordially invited to join and contribute to the discussions on the agenda. If you have specific questions please address them to easst@univie.ac.at.

What is a scientific society for?

Traditionally, scientific societies have been conceived as organizations whose main mission was to defend the interests of their members.  Consistent with that vision, when it comes to publicizing them, much emphasis has been placed on the advantages they offer to those who become new members.

However, if I had to encourage joining the EASST, I would focus not as much on the benefits that it can bring to its members, but for the contributions to the common good that the existence of this association makes possible.

Certainly, there are benefits, but they are not only for members, but for the community of reference of that society as a whole. This is especially important in our case, because we are not a big community. It is true that STS has been gaining practitioners throughout its not very long history, but it is obvious that it does not constitute a field of study around which are gathered a number of academics comparable to other scientific disciplines. Therefore, a scientific society like EASST allows to start and/or sustain initiatives that are absolutely necessary for the maintenance and recognition of the community.

Whate are these EASST contributions?

– EASST organizes periodic scientific meetings that allow not only the dissemination of knowledge, but also the establishment and consolidation of collaborative relationships between colleagues from different countries.

– It contributes to make possible the publication of an open access quality journal such as Science and Technology Studies.

–  It gives out awards that recognize the trajectory or achievements of academics in this field of knowledge.

– It assists local organizations with financial support for symposia or other academic activities. For instance, it played a key role in the support of the first meetings of our REDES CTS, the STS network established since 2011 between Spain and Portugal.

– It supports young people at the beginning of their academic careers by ensuring that they have a voice on their Council and that they find the support they need to participate in community events.

–  It publishes and distributes an organ of expression, EASST Review, which has as its main objective to make visible the activity and concerns of the community

Obviously, to make all this possible, people are needed to support the association. Being a member is, without a doubt, already a contribution. But it is also obvious that membership alone is not enough. We need a strong Council to develop so many crucial activities. This is why we need people who are willing to give a little more. A little bit of their time, a little bit of their work capacity, a little bit of their enthusiasm to enable everything good that EASST does to be realized and, if possible, to go even further.

We want EASST to become a privileged interlocutor for all those actors who understand the importance of the interactions between science, technology and society in the contemporary world, whether they are government agencies or activists and members of social movements. Because to understand our present we need more science and technology studies, we need more EASST, we need you.

Upcoming EASST elections

Dear EASST community,

end of this year EASST will call for elections for new Council
members. The Council manages and governs the development and
priorities of EASST as a key infrastructure for supporting STS in Europe.

Please consider running at this election, and motivate your peers –
students, postdocs, lecturers, professors. Do chat with current
council members if you want to learn more – see for the current
members https://easst.net/about-easst/easst-council-members/

All the best
Ingmar Lippert

Nelly Oudshoorn (2020). Resilient Cyborgs. Living and Dying with Pacemakers and Defibrillators.

This book examines how pacemakers and defibrillators (ICD) participate in transforming life and death in high-tech societies. These implants represent an important case for STS research because they challenge a longstanding tradition of theorizing human-technology relations.  Many theoretical approaches conceptualize the interactions between humans and technologies merely as finite and limited, temporal events and focus on devices that are more or less under the control of humans. However, technologies implanted in bodies often involve continuous interactions that may last a whole life time and their design does not delicate agency to its ‘users’. Because of the persistent and widespread presence of technologies implanted in bodies, understanding the agency, vulnerabilities and resilience of people having these devices has become an urgent concern.  Based on a detailed field work of how people live and die with pacemakers and defibrillators, the book describes how keeping hybrid bodies alive requires the active involvement of ‘wired heart cyborgs’, their close relatives, technicians, nurses and cardiologists, governance and medical infrastructures, and the devices themselves. Importantly, building resilience also includes the phase of dying and the reuse of pacemakers removed from deceased bodies. The concluding chapter develops a new sociology of what it takes to become a resilient cyborg. Inspired by the work of Donna Haraway on cyborgs and companion species, the book argues that implanted technologies can best be considered as body-companion technologies. This concept invites us to approach technologies inside bodies as devices that act as life-long companions requiring extensive work to sustain the multiple, often mutual, relationships between humans and technologies. First of all, the interactions and interdependencies between cyborgs and body companion technologies involve a mutual guarding. Pacemakers and defibrillators have been introduced to keep watch over possibly life-threatening heart-rhythm disturbances to ensure more regular heartbeats. Conversely, people living with these technologies have to watch over the proper functioning of their implants by ensuring that external physical objects, digital devices, (grand)children or intimate partners don’t disrupt their devices. Guarding over their implants to protect them from external harm involves extensive anticipation and disentanglement work in which wired heart cyborgs develop different techniques to build resilience. A second interaction that emerges in this book concerns a reciprocal process of disciplining. During the first months after the implantation, internal heart devices must be disciplined by tuning and re-adjusting their agencies to the agencies of the heart. Conversely, internal heart devices try to discipline cyborgs as well.  Despite this guarding and disciplining, body companion technologies may run wild and even hurt you, as exemplified by fractured leads and inappropriate shocks, even during dying. A third interaction and interdependency between body-companion technologies and wired heart cyborgs therefore concerns domesticating, which, in contrast to guarding and disciplining, only involves work by wired heart cyborgs and technicians. Other important heuristic tools developed in the book include conceptualizing the active engagement of cyborgs in building resilience as work; accounting for their expertise by including sensory experiences and resilience techniques; following the whole life cycle of hybrid bodies, including dying and death; and a sensitivity to difference.

Investigating Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies: A New ERC Project

In the past twenty years, STS has pro­du­ced important insights into bioscientific and biomedical innovations and the epistemological and struc­tu­ral reconfigurations they brought about in the study of life in the second half of the 20th century. The analysis of the impact of molecular biology and bio­technologies such as organ transplantation, cloning, tissue engineering and assisted reproduction has attracted substantial interest among scholars. However, cryopreservation practices, which constitute the material basis for many of these technologies, have hardly been addressed (for notable excep­tions see Parry 2004; Landecker 2007; Radin 2017).

The project team consists of Thomas Lemke (PI), Veit Braun, Sara Lafuente-Funes and Ruzana Liburkina.

 

CRYOSOCIETIES

Over the next five years, the research project »Suspended Life: Exploring Cryopreservation Practices in Contemporary Societies« (CRYO­SOCIETIES) will investigate the collection, storage and usage of hu­man and non-human organic material by technologies of cooling and free­zing, what are known as cryotechnologies.[1] The project is funded by the European Research Council (ERC) within the Ad­vanced Grant scheme[2] and is based at Goethe University Frankfurt. The project team consists of Thomas Lemke (PI), Veit Braun, Sara Lafuente-Funes and Ruzana Liburkina.

CRYOSOCIETIES will investigate empirically the dynamics and complexities of cryopreservation practices, which until now have hardly been recognised in their profound implications for the government of life in contemporary societies. Employing a set of qualitative research methodologies, the team will explore distinctive fields of investigation and sites of cryobanking. The three case studies (each of them led by one of the postdoctoral researchers) cover the fields of regenerative medicine, reproductive technologies, and conservation biology. They include human as well as non-human cryobanks and medical as well as non-medical applications, scientifically and medically sound, but also speculative or utopian practices of cryopreservation:

    • cord blood storage to prepare for possible regenerative therapies in the future (site of fieldwork: Germany / Ruzana Liburkina)
    • oocyte freezing to extend fertility and rearrange reproductive futures (site of fieldwork: Spain / Sara Lafuente-Funes)
    • the cryopreservation of endangered or extinct species with the prospect of “bringing them back to life” by employing reproductive and genetic technologies (site of fieldwork: UK / Veit Braun)

 

Suspended Life

CRYOSOCIETIES is based on the observation that cryopreservation has opened up the perspective of modifying and mo­du­la­ting temporal pathways and developmental cycles (Landecker 2007). The abi­lity to arrest biological processes in order to reanimate them at some point in the future has profoundly transformed the terms of life. Cryobiology esta­bli­shes a new regime of time that replaces linear by plastic temporalities, altering our understanding and experience of life (and death). Given the tech­nological prospect of stopping and resetting cellular activities, it defines a liminal state in which a biological substance is neither fully alive nor dead (Radin 2013; Hoeyer 2017). Ultimately, cryo­pre­servation practices bring into existence a new »form of life« (Helmreich, Roosth 2010)  charac­te­rised by a permanent deferral of death: »suspended life« (Le Conte 1901). They allow vital processes to be kept in a state of »latency« (Radin 2013) for future revival and generate »a sense of moral, social, and political suspense« (Hoeyer 2017: 211), producing con­cep­tual ambiguity and eroding existing categories of personhood, kinship and pro­perty.

Frozen life is also characterised by a double tem­po­ral suspension. Firstly, it refers to the prospect of interrupting and re­star­ting biological processes, bringing the growth and death of cells and tissues to a temporary halt – a »pause« – in order to allow storage for an indefinite pe­riod of time (at least in principle). Cryopreservation puts bodies – or rather bits of bodies – »on hold«. The technological force at work does not draw from the »the plasticity of living matter« (Landecker 2007: 13) by transforming cells and the body; somewhat paradoxically, cryobiological plasticity rather means that temporal change is blocked and put »on ice«, remaining inert and unmoving. Cryopreservation alters the meaning of biology by halting »natural cycles«, by interrupting the »normal« course of development and decay. Secondly, »suspended life« is an integral part of a more comprehensive »regime of anticipation« (Adams, Murphy, Clarke 2009: 250) that guides contemporary technoscientific and biomedical prac­ti­ces. This regime involves a temporal orientation that conceives of the fu­tu­re as open and contingent but at the same time as malleable and dependent on actions in the present. These modes of anticipation are informed by ra­tio­nalities of prevention and preparedness, and are characterised by en­tang­le­ments of fear and hope linking epistemic orientations to moral imperatives. Within this anticipatory logic, the future is shaped and formed in the present by the cryopreservation of organic material credited with a huge potential for knowledge production and hitherto unknown technological applications. Thus, »suspended life« represents a horizon of possibilities and a form of »promissory capital« (Thompson 2005) that materialises in the present to sustain, improve, foster or control processes of life.

 

Towards a New Regime of Cryopolitics?

Contemporary studies in STS, anthropology and sociology on the political and social impact of the life sciences and biomedical practices draw on the concept of biopolitics introduced by Michel Foucault and widely discussed in the contemporary social sciences and humanities (Foucault 2003). However, the analytic focus has been on “molecular biopolitics” (Rose 2007: 11), while cryobiological and cryopreservation practices have only occasionally been taken into account.

To capture the profound socio-material changes introduced by cryotechnological practices, some scholars have recently proposed the term “cryopolitics” as a way of correcting or complementing the analytic focus on processes of molecularisation in contemporary studies in STS, anthropology and sociology. While the notion originates in debates on the geostrategic significance of the Arctic region in the light of global warming and the dwindling of natural resources in other climatic areas (Bravo and Rees 2006), its current usage addresses the complex strategies of generating, regulating and processing “suspended life”. While “biopower” is characterised by technologies that foster life or let die, as opposed to sovereignty that takes life or lets live (Foucault 2003: 241), cryopolitics operates by the principle making live and not letting die (Friedrich and Höhne 2014; Kowal and Radin 2015). Thus, cryopolitics is characterised by arresting processes of decay and dying, enabling the establishment of a form of life beyond life (as we know it) by exposing living matter to a new onto-political regime, rendering it neither fully alive nor dead.

CRYOSOCIETIES seeks to explore and advance this theoretical proposition further. It conceives of cryopreserved organic material as “suspended life” which points to the multifold intersections of contemporary biopolitics with forms of “thanatopolitics” or “necropolitics” (Agamben 1998; Mbembe 2003; Esposito 2008). However, it is important to contrast “suspended life” with Agamben’s notion of “bare life”. The latter designates a human being who can be killed with impunity after being banned from the politico-legal community and reduced to the status of mere physical existence (Agamben 1998). “Suspended life” radicalises the “nakedness” of life forms, addressing them as disembodied and decontextualised organic matter, dissociated from the network of biological, ecological and social interactions it originated from. But “suspended life” also differs from “bare life” in that it defines a form of life that is not exposed to death at all; rather, it is not allowed to die, being kept in limbo between life and death. Therefore, death no longer signifies the ultimate limit of biopolitical interventions and strategies, but is itself rendered plastic by cryobiological practices to preserve, promote and extend life.

 

Final Remarks

CRYOSOCIETIES seeks to achieve two central objectives. First, the project aims to advance the academic debate on “suspended life”. It will draw on and further promote insights from STS, sociology, anthropology and environmental humanities to grasp the multifold dimensions of artificial cold. CRYOSOCIETIES will provide practice-based knowledge about the ways in which “suspended life” is assembled, mobilised and negotiated in distinctive sites and settings. An empirical examination of how “cryogenic life” is shaped as a set of relations between the biological, the social and the technical, it carves out novel routes for future research. By including different fields and materials of cryobanking, the project will offer a comprehensive account that opens up new empirical venues for studying and interrogating the complexity of “suspended life” in science and society.

Secondly, CRYOSOCIETIES seeks to foster public engagement with and within the field of cryopreservation and cryobanking. It tackles a series of pressing questions of scientific and social relevance. With the increasing importance of the life sciences, biological material has become a matter of growing concern, raising issues of privacy, data protection and possible misuse, but also the prospect of patenting and commercialisation. In addition to sensitising the cryobiological community to the complexities of the social and cultural issues at stake, the project also aims to make a substantial contribution to the public discourse on cryopreservation and cryobanking. We hope it will develop a new conceptual vocabulary grounded in comprehensive empirical research to address the vital question of how freezing technologies shape and possibly transform both biological processes and social practices as well as notions of health, fertility and conservation.

 

For more information please visit the project site: www.cryosocieties.eu
E-mail: cryosocieties@soz.uni-frankfurt.de

 [1]                The word »cryos« derives from Ancient Greek (κρύος krýos) and means »ice« or »cold«.

[2]                Grant Agreement number: 788196. The project team consists of the PI and three postdocs (Veit Braun, Sara Lafuente, Ruzana Liburkina) who are each responsible for one of the three subprojects described below (for further information see the project site http://cryosocieties.eu).

 

 

References

Adams, Vincanne, Michelle Murphy, and Adele E. Clarke. “Anticipation: Technoscience, Life, Affect, Temporality.” Subjectivity: International Journal of Critical Psychology 28, no. 1 (2009): 246-65.

Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer. Sovereign Power and Bare Life. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.

Bravo, Michael, and Gareth Rees. “Cryo-Politics: Environmental Security and the Future of Arctic Navigation.” The Brown Journal of World Affairs 13, no. 1 (2006): 205-15.

Esposito, Roberto. Bios. Biopolitics and Philosophy. Minneapolis/London: University of Minnesota Press, 2008.

Foucault, Michel. Society Must Be Defended: Lectures at the Collège De France, 1975-76. Edited by Alessandro Fontana, David Macey, Mauro Bertani and François Ewald. New York: Picador, 2003.

Friedrich, Alexander, and Stefan Höhne. “Frischeregime: Biopolitik Im Zeitalter Der Kryogenen Kultur.” Glocalism: Journal of Culture, Politics and Innovation 1-2 (2014): 1-44.

Helmreich, Stefan, and Sophia Roosth. “Life Forms: A Keyword Entry.” Representations 112, no. 1 (2010): 27-53.

Hoeyer, Klaus. “Suspense. Reflections on the Crypolitcs of the Body.” In Cryopolitics. Frozen Life in a Melting World, edited by Emma Kowal and Joanna Radin, 207-14. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2017.

Kowal, Emma, and Joanna Radin. “Indigenous Biospecimen Collections and the Cryopolitics of Frozen Life.” Journal of Sociology 51, no. 1 (2015): 63-80.

Landecker, Hannah. Culturing Life. How Cells Became Technologies. Cambridge MA/London: Harvard University Press, 2007.

Mbembe, Achille. “Necropolitics.” Public Culture Vol. 15, no. 1 (2003): 11-40.

Radin, Joanna. Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood. Chicago/London: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

Rose, Nikolas. The Politics of Life Itself. Biomedicine, Power, and Subjectivity in the Twenty-First Century. Princeton and Oxford, 2007, 2007.

Parry, Bronwyn. “Technologies of Immortality: The Brain on Ice.” Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 35, no. 2 (2004): 391-413.

Thompson, Charis. Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2005.

 

Summer school announcement: Introduction to Anthropology of Outer Space

August 18-24, 2019, National Astronomy Observatory “Rozhen”, Bulgaria

Anthropologists have always been interested in space exploration. Soon after the launch of Sputnik, on October 4, 1957, Margaret Mead headed a workshop to discuss the cultural significance of the human presence beyond Earth (Mead and Métraux 1957). The last several decades have brought a new perspective to the Anthropology of Outer Space. Thanks to the works of Lisa Messeri, David Valentine, Janet Vertesi, Sean T. Mitchell, Valerie Olson, and some others, outer space is now part of the very core of anthropology as fieldwork. 

The Summer School aims at bringing the experience and inspiration of our American colleagues to the ‘Old World‘ anthropology, especially to the young generation anthropologists and social scientists. During the week long program the participants will work through master classes and workshops on the following subjects:

  • Theoretical frameworks for the study of outer space in anthropology, STS, and other social sciences;
  • The key challenges of New Space economy;
  • Identification of promising research problems and design of own research project 

Course leaders (confirmed) 

Lisa Messeri (Yale University, USA), Sean T. Mitchell (Rutgers University, New Jersey, USA), Ivan Tchalakov (University of Plovdiv, Bulgaria), two space entrepreneurs sharing their experience (to be announced)

More info at School web site:  http://outerspace.uni-plovdiv.net

Contacts of organizers: 

Ivan Tchalakov tchalakov@gmail.com

Irina Popravko irina.popravko83@gmail.com  

EASST Conference 2018 – Registration Process

Dear EASST members,

Greeting from Lancaster, UK. We are looking forward to welcoming you to Lancaster at the EASST
2018 Conference on 25th-28th July. https://easst2018.easst.net/ We are currently finalising the
conference programme and we are very excited about it. The array of papers, events, activities and
plenaries are impressive. Registration is open and early-bird rates are available until May 16

Here are some details about how to register (also on the web page):

  • Everyone wishing to attend the conference must register online and in advance. You do not
    have to pay at the time of registration; an invoice will be emailed to you that details
    payment instructions and deadlines.
  • Registration includes access to the opening reception, the plenary and sub-plenary sessions,
    panel sessions, the book exhibit, all the fringe events (e.g. sign up events such as tree
    planting and a visit to the University wind turbine), and tea/coffee during the morning and
    afternoon breaks and lunches. You will receive a printed conference programme on arrival.
    Registration also includes bus travel between the city and the University.
  • Please register for the social event on the Friday night. We have worked hard to organise an
    event that will be enjoyable for everyone. It will take place in a marquee on the University
    campus. Your ticket includes a range of international street food, a drink, music installations,
    live music and dancing, and more. There will be a cash bar serving locally brewed beers, as
    well as a gin bar and a cocktail bar. There is an extra cost for this event (note there is a
    concession rate) and you need to book this at the time of Registration.

Your EASST membership means you have a considerable discount on the conference fee.

The early-bird conference fees are:
EASST member: €280
Non-member: €360
Member concessions (student or low-waged): €160
Non-member concession (student or low-waged): €240
Social event: €45
Social event concession (student or low-waged): €30
Details about accommodation and travel to Lancaster are on the conference web page.

We are looking forward to MEETING you in Lancaster
Vicky Singleton and Richard Tutton
Chairs of the conference Local Organising Committee

News from EASST Council

The new EASST Council met towards the end of May in Lancaster UK. This was the official handover to our new President Ulrike Felt. There has been a large turnover of Council members so this was also an opportunity for council members to get to know each other, to review what EASST has been doing in recent years and to decide which areas of responsibility to take on.

A main part of the agenda related to our forthcoming EASST conference in 2018. Council had the opportunity to view the extensive facilities and to discuss with the local team their ideas for both the organisation of the event and for the theme and approach. Council were impressed with the level of commitment and enthusiasm for this important conference. Further details and an initial call will be available very soon. Check the EASST website and Eurograd posts for further details.

The EASST fund has now been launched for events taking place in 2018. Council will meet again at the beginning of November and will take forward a range of other issues including the next round of EASST awards for collaborative activity which will be awarded at the conference.