Bionic Bodies, Posthuman Violence and the Disembodied Criminal Subject

Law and Critique 2020

23 Pages Posted: 5 Dec 2020

See all articles by Sabrina Gilani

Sabrina Gilani

Sussex Law School, University of Sussex

Date Written: November 06, 2020


his article examines how the so-called disembodied criminal subject is given structure and form through the law of homicide and assault. By analysing how the body is materialised through the criminal law’s enactment of death and injury, this article suggests that the biological positioning of these harms of violence as uncontroversial, natural, and universal conditions of being ‘human’ cannot fully appreciate what makes violence wrongful for us, as embodied entities. Absent a theory of the body, and a consideration of corporeality, the criminal law risks marginalising, or altogether eliding, experiences of violence that do not align with its paradigmatic vision of what bodies can and must do when suffering its effects. Here I consider how the bionic body disrupts the criminal law’s understanding of human violence by being a body that is both organic and inorganic, and capable of experiencing and performing violence in unexpected ways. I propose that a criminal law that is more receptive to the changing, technologically mediated conditions of human existence would be one that takes the corporeal dimensions of violence more seriously and, as an extension of this, adopts an embodied, embedded, and relational understanding of human vulnerability to violence.

Keywords: Posthumanism, New Materialism, Criminal Violence, Posthuman vulnerability

Suggested Citation

Gilani, Sabrina, Bionic Bodies, Posthuman Violence and the Disembodied Criminal Subject (November 06, 2020). Law and Critique 2020, Available at SSRN:

Sabrina Gilani (Contact Author)

Sussex Law School, University of Sussex ( email )

Brighton BN1 9QN
United Kingdom


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