Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age

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Sheila Jasanoff
MIT Press, Jul 22, 2011 - Science - 320 pages

Investigations into the interplay of biological and legal conceptions of life, from government policies on cloning to DNA profiling by law enforcement.

Legal texts have been with us since the dawn of human history. Beginning in 1953, life too became textual. The discovery of the structure of DNA made it possible to represent the basic matter of life with permutations and combinations of four letters of the alphabet, A, T, C, and G. Since then, the biological and legal conceptions of life have been in constant, mutually constitutive interplay—the former focusing on life's definition, the latter on life's entitlements. Reframing Rights argues that this period of transformative change in law and the life sciences should be considered “bioconstitutional.”

Reframing Rights explores the evolving relationship of biology, biotechnology, and law through a series of national and cross-national case studies. Sheila Jasanoff maps out the conceptual territory in a substantive editorial introduction, after which the contributors offer “snapshots” of developments at the frontiers of biotechnology and the law. Chapters examine such topics as national cloning and xenotransplant policies; the politics of stem cell research in Britain, Germany, and Italy; DNA profiling and DNA databases in criminal law; clinical trials in India and the United States; the GM crop controversy in Britain; and precautionary policymaking in the European Union. These cases demonstrate changes of constitutional significance in the relations among human bodies, selves, science, and the state.


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Rewriting Life Reframing Rights
Institutions and Practices of Compulsory Sterilization in California
3 Making the Facts of Life
Cloning and the Alignment of Scientific and Political Rationalities
Stem Cells Embryos and Citizens in Italian Politics
Constitutional Rights to Postconviction DNA Testing
Constitutional Law and the Forensic DNA Databases
8 Risks and Rights in Xenotransplantation
10 Human Population Genomics and the Dilemma of Difference
Experiments in Reframing Citizenship
12 Representing Europe with the Precautionary Principle
13 Conclusion
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Capital Epistemology and Global Constitutions of the Biomedical Subject

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About the author (2011)

Sheila Jasanoff is Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government. She is the author of Designs on Nature: Science and Democracy in Europe and the United States and other books and the coeditor of Earthly Politics: Local and Global in Environmental Governance (MIT Press, 2004).

Giuseppe Testa heads the Laboratory of Stem Cell Epigenetics at the European Institute for Oncology (IEO) in Milan, where he is also Deputy Principal Investigator in the Research Unit on Biomedical Humanities. He is the cofounder of the interdisciplinary PhD program FOLSATEC (Foundations of the Life Sciences and Their Ethical Consequences) in Milan.

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