chapter  12
BODY TALK: RETHINKING AUTONOMY, COMMODIFICATION AND THE EMBODIED LEGAL SELF
Pages 26

Within the dominant paradigm of property law, the question of body ownership is dealt with in a straightforward fashion. Although individuals may hold certain, limited rights in their bodies, justifiable in terms of the principles of liberal autonomy, there is no general, recognised right of ownership of the body. In this chapter, I argue that although this conclusion may be doctrinally ‘correct’ in English law, the reasoning obscures how body ownership is an important location of legal controversy which demands a more nuanced analysis; one which is grounded in the centrality of gender both to the body and claims to its ownership. Specifically, I want to argue that legal reasoning around body ownership must begin from specific experiences of embodiment; rather than from a position of abstract and ‘universal’ reason, from which the body becomes an object of (legal) knowledge. This approach demands a reappraisal of the liberal concept of autonomy as the basis for rights in the body, in favour of a more relational understanding of autonomy grounded in the connectivity and interdependence of bodies. Thus, my aim here is to provide a more enriched discourse of bodies.