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Joanna Radin, PhD

Associate Professor of History of Medicine

Research Summary

My book, Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold Blood (University of Chicago Press, 2017) tracks Cold War efforts to freeze blood salvaged from members of indigenous communities. This project, which helps to explain the current phenomenon of biobanking, focuses on ideas about human life science and practices of salvage. The broader role of freezing technologies in modern society is explored in the co-authored (with Emma Kowal) book, Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting World (MIT University Press, 2017).

These lines of investigation are part of a bigger research program on "biomedical futures," a historical and anthropological inquiry into how visions of the future shape the emergence of biomedicine in the present. This has included research on the history of "big data," of science and colonialism, of patronage for the human sciences, and of the relationship between science fiction and scientific speculation.

Specialized Terms: Global histories of biology, ecology, medicine, and anthropology since 1945; history and anthropology of life and death; biomedical technology and computing; feminist, Indigenous, and queer STS; science fiction

Research Interests

Bioethics; Death; Epidemiology; Ethics; Expeditions; History of Medicine; Medicine in Literature; Global Health; Cryopreservation; Biomedical Technology; Infectious Disease Medicine

Selected Publications

  • ’Digital Natives’: How Medical and Indigenous History Matter For Big DataJoanna Radin (2017) Osiris.
  • Life on Ice: A History of New Uses for Cold BloodJoanna Radin (2017) Chicago: University of Chicago Press
  • Cryopolitics: Frozen Life in a Melting WorldJoanna Radin and Emma Kowal (eds) Cambridge: MIT University Press, 2017
  • Patrons of the Human Experience: A History of The Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological ResearchSusan Lindee and Joanna Radin. (2016) Current Anthropology, 57(S14): S218-S301.
  • “Indigenous Blood and Ethical Regimes in the United States and Australia Since the 1960s.”Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal. (2015) American Ethnologist, 42(4): 749-765.
  • “Planned Hindsight: The Vital Valuations of Frozen Tissue at the Zoo and Natural History Museum”Joanna Radin. (2015) Journal of Cultural Economy. DOI:
  • “Collecting Human Subjects,” part of special issue, “Archiving Anthropos: The Ethics of Collections in History and Anthropology"Joanna Radin. (2014) Curator 57(2), co-edited with Ann Kakaliouras
  • “Studying Mandela’s children: human biology in post-Apartheid South Africa.”“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).