In the latter half of the twentieth century, revolutionary changes in our understanding of the life sciences and the ability to manipulate biological materials necessitated far-reaching efforts to rethink the meaning of life, and of human-ness more generally, in law, ethics, and public policy. In two books (Designs on Nature, Reframing Rights) and many articles, I have explored these transformations in legal and political thought. One finding from this work is that the law inscribes tacit cultural understandings (e.g., about inventiveness, ownership, gender, responsibility, and the market) into the resolution of biological controversies, without acknowledging, perhaps even recognizing, that such underlying assumptions are in play. These disparate resolutions of legal and policy controversies involving the origin and meaning of human life reflect what I call different bioconstitutional understandings of the relations between states and their subjects.
For a complete list of my publications on genetics and biotechnology, click here. Key papers in this area include: