Saturday, 4 September 2010

Public Lecture - Gender and Political Theory - London

'It's my body and I'll do what I Like with it' Bodies as possessions and objects

Anne Phillips, Professor of Gender and Political Theory, LSE

A Gender Institute and Department of Government Public Lecture

*       Wednesday 29 September, 2010
*       6.30pm
*       Old Theatre, Old Building, LSE
*       Chair: Professor Emily Jackson, Department of Law, LSE
*       Open to all - no booking required.  Followed by an informal drinks reception at the Gender Institute, 5th Floor, Columbia House.

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We commonly use the language of body ownership as a way of claiming personal rights, though we do not normally mean it literally. Most people feel uneasy about markets in sexual or reproductive services, and though there is a substantial global trade in body tissues, the illicit trade in live human organs is widely condemned. But what, if any, is the problem with treating bodies as resources and/or possessions? Is there something about the body that makes it particularly inappropriate to apply to it the language of property, commodities, and things? Or is thinking the body special a kind of sentimentalism that blocks clear thinking about matters such as prostitution, surrogate motherhood, or the sale of spare kidneys?

The related question is whether there is something about feminism that makes it particularly resistant to the body as property. The critique of objectification suggests there is, but there is also an influential strand that defends the commodification of sexual and reproductive services and queries the idea of the body as special. In this lecture, Anne Phillips defends the idea that the body is special, but argues that debates about body ownership are best understood as debates about market relations, not simply claims about the body per se.

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