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Life on IceA History of New Uses for Cold Blood$
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Joanna Radin

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780226417318

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226448244.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 11 May 2021

“As Yet Unknown”: Life for the Future

“As Yet Unknown”: Life for the Future

(p.55) Two “As Yet Unknown”: Life for the Future
Life on Ice

Joanna Radin

University of Chicago Press

The blood of members of so-called primitive groups was thought to contain a quarry of potentially invaluable information that would reveal itself as new molecular techniques emerged. In the circumpolar North, ideas about the ability to salvage and preserve blood to serve the biomedical “as yet unknown” emerged out of the United States’ military’s mineral and medical prospecting efforts. Alaska Native peoples’ bodies—along with their lands—were mined to support the ascendancy of America as a superpower not only in the realm of politics but also in life science. I describe how the Yale epidemiologist John Rodman Paul used his experience collecting blood in the vicinity of a United States naval base in the American territories of the far north to justify a broader program of blood-based surveillance that was ultimately adopted by the World Health Organization. It was expected that, if properly preserved, blood samples could and would be mined repeatedly, each time identifying novel elements, including ones not even anticipated by those who created the collection. Despite epidemiologists’ claims that their techniques were expanding the possibilities for medicine and public health, they often dismissed forms of local knowledge not produced in the laboratory, including subjects’ own memories of epidemics.

Keywords:   temporality, anticipation, World Health Organization, epidemiology, surveillance, biosecurity

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