Speaking 'Truth' to Biopower
Pacific McGeorge School of Law Research Paper
12 Pages Posted: 29 Feb 2012 Last revised: 22 Jun 2017
Date Written: January 20, 2012
This essay argues for the deployment of rights-based strategies in tort litigation as a means of confronting the postmodern techniques of biopower. Rights-based rhetoric can provide a useful language of resistance in this context, the essay claims, because tort litigation routinely acts as a venue in which the idealized bodily narratives of biopower are compared against the particular material conditions of plaintiffs’ bodies. In the typical tort case, the narratives of biopower operate to pathologize bodily differences as “tragic” or “abnormal.” A rights-based narrative, in contrast, might emphasize the right to be free from unwanted bodily interference and, in doing so, provide plaintiffs with an opportunity to offer alternative narratives of bodily experience. Thus, the deployment of rights-based strategies in tort litigation could help to create space for plaintiffs to speak their own truths, as informed by their own experience, instead of simply reproducing the assumed truths of the dominant biopower regime.
Keywords: tort, torts, tort litigation, body, postmodernism, biopower, sex, gender, disability, sexual identity, resistance, rights, therapeutic jurisprudence
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