Frozen Tissues & The Ethics of Biomedical Collections

My research in this area has focused on the interplay between technologies and epistemologies of preservation in the life sciences.  By putting cold storage technologies in the center, I explore linkages between knowledge production, biological variation, and public health.

Life on Ice: Frozen Blood and Human Variation in a Genomic Age, 1950-2010. Dissertation in History and Sociology of Science.  University of Pennsylvania, 2012. Dissertation Advisor: Professor M. Susan Lindee.

Joanna Radin. “Latent Life: Concepts and Practices of Human Tissue Preservation in the International Biological Program.”  Forthcoming (2013) in Social Studies of Science as part of special issue “Indigenous Body Parts, Mutating Temporalities and the Half-Lives of Postcolonial Technoscience,” co-edited with Emma Kowal and Amy Hinterberger.

“Planned Hindsight: The Cryobiological Conservation of Biodiversity” to be published in edited volume on Endangerment and its Consequences, edited by Fernando Vidal and Nelia Das.

“Standardizing Variation: Creating Human Blood Serum Reference Banks at the WHO, 1958-1970″ in preparation.

“Cryoethics: Anthropology and Ethics in an Age of Immortality” as part of Invited Session, “Defrost: The Social After-Lives of Biological Substance,” co-organized with Emma Kowal, American Anthropological Association, Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA, November 2012.

“Latent Life: Freezing Technologies and Time Synchronization in Sciences of Reproduction” as part of workshop, “Bioeconomies of Reproduction,” ZiF Center for Interdisciplinary Research, Bielefeld, Germany, June 15, 2012.


My ongoing involvement in nanostudies has enabled me to investigate ideas about emerging technologies and their representations.  Studying nanotechnology makes visible the processes that shape relations of power in a range of institutions — media, government, and industry.

Sarah Kaplan and Joanna Radin. “Bounding an Emerging Technology: Deconstructing the Drexler-Smalley Debate about Nanotechnology.” (authors listed alphabetically) Social Studies of Science 41: 457-485.

Sarah Kaplan & Joanna Radin. “Bounding Nanotechnology: Deconstructing the Drexler-Smalley Debate.” Academy of Management Best Paper Proceedings (2009; authors listed alphabetically).

Bruce Lewenstein, Joanna Radin & Janie Diels. “Nanotechnology in the Media: A Preliminary Analysis.” In Nanotechnology: Societal Implications II: Individual Perspectives, edited by Mihail C. Roco and William Sims Bainbridge (eds), (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), 258-65.

Genomic Knowledge Networks

Using historical and ethnographic research methods, I have examined the politics of expertise in genomics.  These projects have explored the ways in which ideas about ancestry, evolution, and population play into efforts to order human and non-human naturecultures.

“Counseling Kinship:  Genetic Genealogists and the Negotiation of Non-paternity.” In preparation.

“Weird Science: Platypus as Anti-Model Organism in the History of Biology.”  In preparation.

Food & Drug Regulation

This project provided a unique opportunity to help articulate the significance of the Food and Drug Administration in American public life.  Arthur Daemmrich and I co-edited this collection of perspectives on the status of risk and regulation at the 100 year mark of FDA’s history.  With chapters by leaders in the agency as well as industry representatives, this book is a valuable primary source as well as a starting point for contemporary investigations of the agency.

Arthur Daemmrich & Joanna Radin (eds).  Perspectives on Risk and Regulation: The FDA at 100 (Philadelphia: CHF Press, 2007)

Public History

The “Web of Healing” is a pedagogical website designed to introduce undergraduates to the practice of “doing history.”  It provides resources for investigating the social history of healing in 18th century Philadelphia including a downloadable walking tour to highlight new landmarks in Philadelphia’s Old City.

A. Boateng, J. Martucci, J. Radin & K. Whitney. “The Web of  Healing”

Oral History

Oral history represents a opportunity for dynamic engagement and collaboration that makes it impossible to ignore the extent to which historians are implicated in the knowledge production processes we investigate.  In am eager to explore new kinds of partnerships for undertaking oral history.

Jonathan Scott Friedlaender as told to Joanna Radin. From Anthropometry to Genomics: Reflections of a Pacific Fieldworker. Press, 2009.

“Studying Mandela’s children: human biology in post-Apartheid South Africa.” An interview with Noel Cameron by Joanna Radin.  Published as part of “The Biological Anthropology of Living Human Populations: World Histories, National Styles and International Networks”  Current Anthropology, 2012, 53(S5).

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