Both law and biology are ordering devises and meaningful structures which regulate, allow or limit what can be done or undone and, in the process, alter our philosophical, political or social self-understanding.
The aim of the new UNSW Law Initiative for Bio-Legality (IBL) is to provide a platform for research, reflection and teaching where questions can be examined on how biological categories determine legality and how law becomes constituted in biology. Recent court cases on the property claims of seeds (Monsanto) or genes (Myriad), for instance, clearly reveal the enormous impact biotechnological in[ter]ventions have on what is made, grown or own. Other topics of interest include synthetic biology, genetic population research, epigenetics, forensic DNA, neurolaw, xenotransplantation, transgenetic animals, or germ-line therapy. These areas of concern have radically redefined of what legally establishes nature, property, personhood, evidence, mens rae, citizenship, reproduction, health, kinship, and “life” (or nonlife). We are also interested in new institutional practices and policies such as, for example, bio-banking and bio-safety and how they shape bio-sociality, bio-citizenship, bio-rights, and bio-constitutionalism.
In interrogating how biology influences our common understanding of legality, morality and science in the age of biotechnology, the initiative fundamentally takes a cross-disciplinary perspective on the changing boundaries between law and biology. While the relation between biology and law builds on a very long history – from natural law to evolutionary jurisprudence – the approach of the initiative is methodologically closer related to Science and Technology Studies (STS), Actor-Network-Theory (ANT), medical and legal anthropology, the philosophy of science, biology and technology and our biopolitical understandings of legal governmentality.