As the planet warms and the polar ice caps melt, naturally occurring cold is a resource of growing scarcity. At the same time, energy-intensive cooling technologies are widely used as a means of preservation. Technologies of cryopreservation support global food chains, seed and blood banks, reproductive medicine, and even the preservation of cores of glacial ice used to study climate change. In many cases, these practices of freezing life are an attempt to cheat death. Cryopreservation has contributed to the transformation of markets, regimes of governance and ethics, and the very relationship between life and death. In Cryopolitics, experts from anthropology, history of science, environmental humanities, and indigenous studies make clear the political and cultural consequences of extending life and deferring death by technoscientific means.
The contributors examine how and why low temperatures have been harnessed to defer individual death through freezing whole human bodies; to defer nonhuman species death by freezing tissue from endangered animals; to defer racial death by preserving biospecimens from indigenous people; and to defer large-scale human death through pandemic preparedness. The cryopolitical lens, emphasizing the roles of temperature and time, provokes new and important questions about living and dying in the twenty-first century.