n Stellenbosch Law Review = Stellenbosch Regstydskrif - Human bodies in law : arbitrary discursive constructions?

Volume 19, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 1016-4359
  • E-ISSN: 1996-2193



Constructions of the human body in law display a series of ambiguous, incomprehensible, and often contradictory images, which are mainly aimed at addressing internal problems of legal discourse. This contribution investigates (in two parts) the way in which bodies have constituted the medium through which certain political, social and legal developments have manifested themselves throughout the ages. The resultant emergence of prescriptions and prohibitions relating to a range of issues such as, , abortion, genetic research, human reproduction, homosexuality and control of crime and disease, are also examined. Certain bodies have in the past been perceived as deviant or dangerous, and traces of such perceptions still linger in the present.

The second part of the article embarks on a closer analysis of the ambivalent constructions of the body as apparent in law, by primarily focusing on the effect of developments in the field of genetic research. The article demonstrates how conventional constructions of the body in law have become wholly inadequate in addressing recent scientific developments, seeing that such developments have undermined and reversed many traditional, fundamental premises relied upon in the law, philosophy and science.

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