Foucault News

News and resources on French thinker Michel Foucault (1926-1984)

Lemke, T. (2022). Conceptualising Suspended Life: From Latency to Liminality. Theory, Culture & Society,

The article focuses on the ability of some animals and plants to respond to changing environmental conditions by temporarily suspending metabolic processes. In contemporary biology, this state between life and death is commonly labelled ‘cryptobiosis’, combining the Greek kryptos (hidden, concealed, secret) with biōsis (mode of life). I argue that the notion of ‘cryptobiosis’ does not account sufficiently for the processual and relational dimensions of ametabolic life. The article advances a related but different concept, which better addresses this liminal state of biological organisation: suspended life. While cryptobiosis still nurtures the imaginary of some latent life, suspended life stresses the liminality of the neither-nor life and death. The notion also grasps the dynamic and ongoing transfer between the biological and the technological. While the debate on cryptobiosis has so far remained confined to the description of natural processes, suspended life (or limbiosis) promises to account for contemporary technological practices of cryopreservation.

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