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Book description

New developments in biotechnology radically alter our relationship with our bodies. Body tissues can now be used for commercial purposes, while external objects, such as pacemakers, can become part of the body. Property in the Body: Feminist Perspectives transcends the everyday responses to such developments, suggesting that what we most fear is the feminisation of the body. We fear our bodies are becoming objects of property, turning us into things rather than persons. This book evaluates how well-grounded this fear is, and suggests innovative models of regulating what has been called 'the new Gold Rush' in human tissue. This is an up-to-date and wide-ranging synthesis of market developments in body tissue, bringing together bioethics, feminist theory and lessons from countries that have resisted commercialisation of the body, in a theoretically sophisticated and practically significant approach.


'Donna Dickenson has done a brilliant job of bringing sophisticated philosophical analysis together with feminist critique to help us understand the meaning of the 'body as property' in the 21st century. Prof. Dickenson's book is a gem, of both brilliance and clarity, rare in its ability to traverse the worlds of feminist theory, philosophy, ethics, and cultural anthropology in search of deeper understandings of the libratory as well as exploitative potential of the concept of the 'body as property.' This work of nuance and complexity can help us understand the challenges modern biotechnologies bring to the world of human relationships - in stem cell research, umbilical cord blood banks, genetic patenting, the 'harvesting' of eggs, and trafficking in kidneys. Dickenson literally travels the world to such distant places as Tonga to bring us a rethinking of the tired old dichotomies which have dominated discussions of bodily property. Her book is a stellar example of how feminist theorizing can illuminate universal questions about the human condition - for both men and women.'

Cynthia Daniels - Associate Professor, Political Science, Dept. Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ

'Donna Dickenson has produced an incisive feminist critique of the biotechnology industries and the limits of conventional bioethics. She tackles the most pressing of bioethical issues - property in the body - and critically examines the assumptions which permit medical researchers to take human tissues without recompense or recognition, particularly from female donors. Her nuanced analysis of property in the body as a complex social relation, able to be configured in different ways, provides a coherent alternative approach to tissue regulation that better protects donors' interests and status. This book is essential reading for bioethicists, policy makers, medical researchers, tissue donors and anyone interested in the social and philosophical questions raised by the contemporary life sciences.'

Catherine Waldby - author of Tissue Economies: Blood, Organs and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism

'Describing reproductive commodification as nothing less than the 'new enclosures' of the genetic commons, Dickenson has taken her argument from Property, Women and Politics and in a bold, new and entirely original elaboration, set out a brilliant argument about the privatisation of human tissue. This is not just a book for specialists in bioethics. Anyone interested in the future of reproduction needs to understand the issues that are treated here with such care and sophistication.'

Professor Mary Fainsod Katzenstein - Department of Government, and the Program in Feminist, Gender and Sexual Studies, Cornell University

'This book is well-written and is a pleasure to read. It combines approaches in law, philosophy and bioethics. It is a must read for people interested in bioethics or in the law relating to dead bodies and body parts; it is also highly recommended for the general reader.'

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