Brave New Law: Personhood in the Age of Biolegality

  • Marc de LeeuwEmail author
  • Sonja van Wichelen
Part of the Biolegalities book series (BIOGA)


In our introduction to this edited book Personhood in the Age of Biolegality: Brave New Law, we chart out our intellectual premises for engaging with the notion of personhood in an age that defines itself as not only controlling biology, but also of making biology. Our problematic is to understand the shifting meaning of persons amidst these biotechnological changes and to diagnose the stakes involved. By way of outlining the structure of the book—arranged by the focus on “troubling persons,” “evidencing persons,” “governing persons,” and “the future of persons”—we introduce the thought-provoking debates that the contributions to this collective project bring to the topic of persons and law. While the emphasis lies on identifying and analyzing empirical situations, the collection also makes genuine attempts at theorizing alternative understandings of legal personhood that can contribute more meaningfully to the entangled lives and livelihoods in contemporary biosocieties.


  1. Braverman, I (ed.) 2015, Animals, biopolitics, law: lively legalities, Routledge, Abingdon.Google Scholar
  2. Cooper, ME 2011, Life as surplus: biotechnology and capitalism in the neoliberal era, University of Washington Press, Seattle.Google Scholar
  3. Delaney, D 2003, Law and nature, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  4. De Leeuw, M & Van Wichelen, S, forthcoming, Biolegalities: A critical intervention, Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  5. Dumit, J 2004, Picturing personhood: brain scans and biomedical identity, Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  6. Ewick, P & Silbey, SS 1998, The common place of law: stories from everyday life, University of Chicago Press, Chicago.Google Scholar
  7. Fassin, D 2009, ‘Another politics of life is possible’, Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 26, no. 5, pp. 44–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fassin, D & d’Halluin, E 2005, ‘The truth from the body: Medical certificates as ultimate evidence for asylum seekers’, American Anthropologist, vol. 107, no. 4, pp. 597–608.Google Scholar
  9. Grear, A 2010, Redirecting human rights: Facing the challenge of corporate legal humanity, Springer.Google Scholar
  10. Grear, A 2013, ‘Law’s entities: complexity, plasticity and justice’, Jurisprudence, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 76–101.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Griffiths, PE & Stotz K 2006, ‘Genes in the postgenomic era’, Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics, vol. 27, no. 6, pp. 499–521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Hacking, I 2006, ‘Making up people’, London Review of Books, vol. 28, no. 16, pp. 23–26.Google Scholar
  13. Hacking, I 2007, ‘Kinds of people: moving targets’, Proceedings of the British Academy, vol. 151, pp. 285–318.Google Scholar
  14. Hedgecoe, AM 1999, ‘Reconstructing geneticization: a research manifesto’, Health Law Journal, vol. 7, pp. 5–18.Google Scholar
  15. Heinemann, T, Helén, I, Lemke, T, Naue, U & Weiss, M 2016, Suspect families: DNA analysis, family reunification and immigration policies, Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  16. Heinemann, T & Lemke, T 2014, ‘Biological citizenship reconsidered: the use of DNA analysis by immigration authorities in germany’, Science, Technology, & Human Values, vol. 39, no. 4, pp. 488–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hoeyer, K & Hogle, LF 2014, ‘Informed consent: the politics of intent and practice in medical research ethics’, Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 43, pp. 347–362.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Jasanoff, S (ed.) 2004, States of knowledge: the co-production of science and the social order. Routledge.Google Scholar
  19. Jasanoff, S 2016, The ethics of invention: technology and the human future, W. W Norton, New York.Google Scholar
  20. Lippman, A 1991, ‘Prenatal genetic testing and screening: constructing needs and reinforcing inequities’, American Journal of Law and Medicine, vol. 17, pp. 15–50.Google Scholar
  21. Lynch, M & McNally, R 2009, ‘Forensic DNA databases and biolegality’, in Handbook of genetics and society, pp. 283–301.Google Scholar
  22. Meloni, M 2016, Political biology: science and social values in human heredity from eugenics to epigenetics. Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke. Google Scholar
  23. Meloni, M 2019, Impressionable biologies: from the archaeology of plasticity to the sociology of epigenetics, Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  24. Mills, C 2014, ‘Making fetal persons: fetal homicide, ultrasound, and the normative significance of birth’, Philosophia, vol. 4, no. 1, pp. 88–107.Google Scholar
  25. Mussawir, E & Parsley, C 2017, ‘The law of persons today: at the margins of jurisprudence’, Law and Humanities, vol. 11, no. 1, pp. 44–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Naffine, N 2009, Law’s meaning of life: philosophy, religion, Darwin and the legal person, Bloomsbury, London.Google Scholar
  27. Nelkin, D & Lindee, MS 1995, ‘The media-ted gene. Stories of gender and race’, in Deviant bodies: Critical perspectives on difference in science and popular culture, pp. 387–402.Google Scholar
  28. Pavone, V & Goven, J (eds) 2017, Bioeconomies, Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. Petryna, A 2013, Life exposed: biological citizens after Chernobyl, Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  30. Pottage, A 2002, ‘Unitas personae: on legal and biological self-narration’, Law & Literature, vol. 14, no. 2, pp. 275–308. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Pottage, A 2004, ‘Introduction’, in A Pottage & M Mundy (eds), Law, anthropology and the constitution of the social: making persons and things, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  32. Pottage, A 2007, ‘The socio-legal implications of the new biotechnologies’, Annual Review of Law and Social Science, vol. 3, pp. 321–344.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Prainsack, B 2017, Personalized medicine: empowered patients in the 21st century? New York University Press, New York.Google Scholar
  34. Pugliese, J 2010, Biometrics: bodies, technologies, biopolitics, Routledge, New York.Google Scholar
  35. Radin, J 2018, ‘Ethics in human biology: a historical perspective on present challenges’, Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 47, pp. 263–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Rajan, KS 2006, Biocapital: the constitution of postgenomic life, Duke University Press, Durham.Google Scholar
  37. Richardson, SS & Stevens, H (eds) 2015, Postgenomics: Perspectives on biology after the genome, Duke University Press.Google Scholar
  38. Rose, N 2007, The politics of life itself: biomedicine, power, and subjectivity in the twenty-first century, Princeton University Press, Princeton.Google Scholar
  39. Seron, C & Silbey, SS 2004, ‘Profession, science, and culture: an emergent canon of law and society research’, in The Blackwell companion to law and society, Blackwell, Malden, pp. 30–59.Google Scholar
  40. Strathern, M 2005, Kinship, law and the unexpected: relatives are always a surprise, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  41. Timmermans, S & Berg, M 2003, ‘The practice of medical technology’, Sociology of Health & Illness, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 97–114.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Van Beers, B 2017, ‘The changing nature of law’s natural person: the impact of emerging technologies on the legal concept of the person’, German Law Journal, vol. 18, no. 3, pp. 559–593.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Van Beers, B, Sterckx, S & Dickenson, D (eds) 2018, Personalised medicine, individual choice and the common good, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.Google Scholar
  44. Van Wichelen, S 2017, ‘Reproducing the border: Kinship legalities in the bioeconomy’, in V Pavone & J Goven (eds), Bioeconomies: Life, technology, and capital in the 21st century, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 207–225.Google Scholar
  45. Vatter, M & De Leeuw, M 2019, ‘Human rights, legal personhood and the impersonality of embodied life’, Law, Culture and the Humanities,
  46. Warin, M, Kowal, E & Meloni, M 2018, ‘Indigenous knowledge in a postgenomic landscape: the politics of epigenetic hope and reparation in Australia’, Science, Technology, & Human Values,
  47. Wishart, D 2016, ‘Puzzling out law’s person’, Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 743–764.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.LawUNSW AustraliaSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Sociology and Social PolicyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

Personalised recommendations