, Volume 17, Issue 3, pp 241-265
Date: 22 Oct 2009

“Gender-benders”: Sex and Law in the Constitution of Polluted Bodies

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Abstract

This paper explores how law might conceive of the injury or harm of endocrine disruption as it applies to an aboriginal community experiencing chronic chemical pollution. The effect of the pollution in this case is not only gendered, but gendering: it seems to be causing the ‘production’ of two girl babies for every boy born on the reserve. This presents an opening to interrogate how law is implicated in the constitution of not just gender but sex. The analysis takes an embodied turn, attempting to validate the real and material consequences of synthetic chemicals acting on bodies—but uncovers that finding a harm in a declining sex ratio depends on a static conception of the human form, based on unfounded assumptions of ‘naturalness’ and ‘normalcy’. Elizabeth Grosz’s theory of ‘becoming’ offers a compelling challenge, essentially pointing to the conclusion that we should find harm where we find illness and suffering and not simply where we find difference. At the same time, we cannot discount the political economy of the pollution: the paper concludes by returning the focus to the role of power, colonialism and the state in the perpetuation of the pollution on the landscape.