Bodies of Law

Bodies of Law

by Alan Hyde

Paperback(New Edition)

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Bodies of Law by Alan Hyde

The most basic assertions about our bodies—that they are ours and distinguish us from each other, that they are private and have boundaries, races, and genders—are all political theories, constructed in legal texts for political purposes. So argues Alan Hyde in this first account of the body in legal thought. Hyde demonstrates that none of the constructions of the body in legal texts are universal truths that rest solely on body experience. Drawing on an array of fascinating case material, he shows that legal texts can construct all kinds of bodies, including those that are not owned at all, that are just like other bodies, that are public, open, and accessible to others. Further, the language, images, and metaphors of the body in legal texts can often convince us of positions to which we would not assent as a matter of political theory.

Through analysis of legal texts, Hyde shows, for example, how law's words construct the vagina as the most searchable body part; the penis as entirely under mental control; the bone marrow that need not be shared with a half-sibling who will die without it; and urine that must be surrendered for drug testing in rituals of national purification. This book will interest anyone concerned with cultural studies, gender studies, ethnic studies, and political theory, or anyone who has heard the phrase "body constructed in discourse" and wants to see, step by step, exactly how this is done.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780691012285
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Publication date: 07/07/1997
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 264
Product dimensions: 7.75(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.77(d)

About the Author

Alan Hyde is Professor and Sidney Reitman Scholar at the Rutgers University School of Law (Newark).

Table of Contents

Ch. 1The Body as Machine: Hawkins v. McGee19
Ch. 2The Fatigued Body: On the Progressive History of the Body as Machine34
Ch. 3The Body as Property48
Ch. 4Constructing the Autonomous Legal Body: Privacy, Property, Inviolability80
Ch. 5Reproductive Capacity: Unsalable, Commodified, Compensable97
Ch. 6Sandwich Man; or, The Economic and Political History of Bodily Display109
Ch. 7Suppressing Bodily Display: Legal Breasts, Sunbathing, Dance, Photographic Images131
Ch. 8The Body's Narratives151
Ch. 9The Legal Vagina165
Ch. 10The Legal Penis173
Ch. 11Tranquilizing the Prisoner187
Ch. 12Body Wastes205
Ch. 13The Racial Body222
Ch. 14Diseased Bodies: Antibodies and Anti-Bodies241
Ch. 15Offensive Bodies252
Conclusion: A Body Fantasia258
Table of Cases267

What People are Saying About This

Kendall Thomas

Alan Hyde has produced a stunning critical anatomy of how the human body figures (and is figured) in American legal discourse. Anyone who wants to understand the myriad mechanisms by which law constructs and regulates corporeality would do well to start with this book. Bodies of Law will stand as a decisive intervention in the study of law and contemporary 'body politics.'
Kendall Thomas, Columbia Law School

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