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Bodies, Property, and Politics (SO239-15)

Do you think you own your body? You might think you do, but actually, we don't really own our bodies often in the ways that we think we do.

Did you know that you can buy and sell sex cells? Or that human organs can be purchased for transplantation on the black market? Or what about that 41% of the genes in the human genome have been patented?

Has the human body become a commodity that can be bought, sold and traded?

This class is about how new technologies and bioscientific research are changing how we see ourselves and others. We will examine the numerous ways that bodies (and their parts) are regulated, disciplined, licensed, altered, patented, frozen and sequenced. We will look at how bodies and other forms of biological life have entered into new circulations of capital and markets. How have they become subjects of intellectual property and exchange? What ethical and political understandings of human health accompany these transformations? We will read, analyse, and critically interrogate works by scholars who have addressed the questions in a variety of national and regulatory contexts.

In both the lectures and seminars, we explore how the modern state governs and regulates the production and use of biomedical knowledge and its relationship to forms of privatisation, identity and marketisation. To this end, the course combines theoretical ideas and empirical examples with approaches from social, cultural and political theory.

The course takes a disctinctly global perspective, examining a variety of illustrative national and transnational case studies including: organ donation, genetics/genomics, the patenting of human cell lines and markets in human reproduction.

Human Genome

Module Director:


Timing and CATS

This module will run in the Spring Term of the 2016/17 academic year, and is worth 15CATS.