SSSHARC Pop-Up Research Lab

Brave New Law: Legal Personhood in the New Biosciences

The Biopolitics of Science Research Network has been awarded funding for a Pop-Up Research Lab by Sydney Social Sciences and Humanities Advanced Research Centre (SSSHARC).

The SSSHARC Pop-up Research Lab scheme is one of four grant schemes from SSSHARC’s interim funding programs in 2017, which called on applicants to develop a three-week intensive research program around a problem of real-world and theoretical significance, to be held on campus.

The project Brave New Law: Legal Personhood in the New Biosciences, led by Sonja van Wichelen, explores how bioscientific advances in the field of neuroscience, epigenetics, research on the microbiome, and immunology are encouraging thought provoking problems for the foundational legal principles of personality as well as their attendant notion of personal rights.

The 21st century is witnessing a profound transformation in law and society because of the implications of the new biosciences and biotechnologies. New applications are emerging that radically challenge our conceptions of nature and law and that demand new tools in the Humanities and Social Sciences to adequately respond and analyze these emerging practices. The objective of the Pop-Up Research Lab starts with the premise that these new developments provide novel opportunities to thinking anew about the nature and structure of legal personhood.

Hence, complex issues are emerging in the intersection of law and biology, an area of law that is quickly expanding and displaying highly composite problems that are challenging existing legal regimes. The Pop-Up Research Lab in August 2018 aims to explore these problems of what can be called emerging issues in “biolegality”—the coming together of biology and legality—and to revisit the concept of personhood in posthuman and relational ways.

Activities will include an international workshop, a public forum, and a master class for graduate students. They will bring together anthropologists, sociologists, legal scholars, historians, cultural theorists, and political philosophers from Australia, Europe, UK, and the US. Several scholars and students from the Pop-Up Research Lab will also participate at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science which will be held in Sydney directly following the Pop-Up Research Lab.

More details will follow. For inquiries please contact Sonja van Wichelen (

The Changing Rights to Family Life: Biomedicine and Legal Governance in Globalization

Dr. Sonja van Wichelen

This project investigates the impact of globalisation and biomedicine on the constitution of family through a cultural study of legal processes. It compares two contrasting and currently contested cases in Australia – transnational surrogacy arrangements and family reunification in immigration – to study the biomedicalisation of parenthood, the role of reproduction in border politics, and legal transformations in governing “family life”. By using justifications as an analytical method to explore legal doctrines, the research moves beyond a critique of human rights and considers how the meaning of family is affected by science, capitalism, and humanitarianism.

$ 346,449 ARC DECRA 2014-2018

Biobank Networks, Medical Research and the Challenge of Globalisation

Associate Professor Ian Kerridge, Professor Cameron Stewart, Professor Catherine Waldby, Professor Warwick Anderson, Professor Robert Cumming, Professor Simon Easteal, Associate Professor Emma Kowal, , Doctor Wendy Lipworth, Associate Professor Christine Critchley, Professor Warwick Anderson, Associate Professor Paula Marlton

While the ethical challenges associated with isolated biobanks are well understood, over the past decade, international networks of biobanks have been established in order to maximise the utility and sustainability of biobanks. This is significant because the globalization of research raises numerous and difficult technical, governance, legal and ethical challenges, principally because research is less constrained by institutional, academic, cultural or national boundaries. Australia’s ability to contribute to, and make use of these networks relies not only on funding, but on public support and on the development and application of effective, ethically robust and evidence-based public policy, regulation and legislation. This study will provide evidence to inform the development of ethically rigorous and culturally informed strategies to ensure that Australians contribute to, and benefit from, international biobank networks. This will be achieved through elaboration of policies and practices for participation in biobank networks and, where necessary, recommendations for regulatory reform. This will be the first systematic, Australia-wide study of the challenges raised by the globalization of research and the formation of biobank networks.

$763,644.00 NH&MRC Project Grant 2015-2017

Addressing conflicts of interest in public health and biomedicine: enhancing professional integrity and safeguarding the public’s health

Dr Wendy Lipworth, A/Prof Ian Kerridge, Prof Paul Komesaroff, Prof Cameron Stewart, Prof Ian Olver

It is common for health researchers, clinicians and policymakers to have "conflicts of interest" due, for example, to relationships with private industry. It is widely accepted that conflicts of interest can at times distort research, policymaking and practice, but there is no consensus as to how they should be conceptualised, assessed or managed In this project we will explore the causes and impacts of conflict of interest, and devise
a sophisticated framework for managing them.

$564,553 NH&MRC Project Grant 2014-2016

How Australians navigate the healthcare maze: the differential capacity to choose

Dr Fran Collyer and Dr Kirsten Harley

Choice in health care affects all Australians, but we do not all have equal capacity to choose. This project advances sociological and policy-relevant knowledge about the social factors that shape healthcare choice. By analysing the policy, marketing and media contexts, the role of doctors and other health system gatekeepers, and individual health consumers’ perceptions and exercise of choice, we demonstrate how Australians navigate the public/private healthcare maze. We identify the key components of choice in health care and assess the explanatory power of the sociological concept, ‘healthcare capital’. We will explain the differential experience of choice as a basis for improved health policy.

$268,216 ARC Discovery Grant 2013-2015

Bioethics and translation

Prof Mike Michael

Mike Michael is a co-applicant on the Wellcome-funded LABTEC - London & Brighton Translational Ethics Centre hosted by Centre for Biomedicine & Society (CBAS) at Brunel University (Principal Investigator - Clare Williams). The wide-ranging projects conducted under LABTEC are concerned with the ethics of translational research as played out across a spectrum of empirical case studies. Mike was a co-supervisor on two projects: ‘Scientists’ and clinicians’ experiences of working in experimental neuroscience’ and ‘From animal to human? Bioethics and the regulation of human/animal chimeras’.

Disease and the modern self: becoming autoimmune

Prof Warwick Anderson and Prof Ian R MacKay

This will be the first historical analysis of concepts of autoimmunity. A conceptual history of a disease category, the book will also incorporate patient experience, scientific ideas about the immunological 'self', and an examination of the connections and articulations of research laboratories and hospital clinics in the twentieth century

$145,000 ARC Discovery Grant

Changing spaces of HIV prevention: a cultural analysis of transformations in sexual sociability

Dr Kane Race

Australia's response to HIV/AIDS is grounded in a unique engagement between gay community and government. But no cultural account exists of how people become engaged in HIV prevention. This project will address this gap by examining transformations in gay culture over the past 30 years and investigating the connections to HIV prevention.

$130,000 ARC Discovery Grant

Southern racial conceptions: comparative histories and contemporary legacies

Prof Warwick Anderson

This project aims to reveal intense scientific debate about what it meant to be human in the southern hemisphere during the twentieth century, placing Australian racial thought in a new context. Through comparative study, it shows the distinctive character and scope of racial ideas in southern settler societies, and assesses their global impact.

$2,120,561 Australian Laureate Fellowship 2011 - 2016

Climate change and the history of environmental determinism

Prof Alison C Bashford

In previous centuries, most scientists presumed that environment and climate determined human health, capacities and difference. By tracing this longstanding idea through the twentieth century, this project will identify implications for current climate science.

$844,133 ARC Future Fellowship 2011 - 2015

Experimental workers of the world - the labour of human research subjects in the emerging bioeconomies of China and India

Dr Melinda Cooper

China and India have become significant new hubs for domestic and multinational clinical trials, the process by which new drugs are tested for global consumption. Developing the concept of experimental labour, this project will investigate the growing numbers of the poor and uninsured who enroll in clinical trials as a means of making a living.

$603,496 ARC Future Fellowship 2011 - 2015

The oöcyte economy: changing meanings of human eggs in fertility, assisted reproduction and stem cell research

Prof Catherine Waldby

This study will investigate the contemporary social, biomedical and commercial pressures shaping the future of reproduction. It will focus on one highly contentious reproductive tissue, human oöcytes (eggs), as a way to link together social dynamics of reproduction that are usually treated separately – biomedical innovation, family formation, population policy and gendered scientific citizenship. Over the last ten years, oöcytes have become implicated in all these domains – in the global shortage of oöcytes for infertility treatment and stem cell research, in the practices of fertility tourism and private oöcyte banking, and in the new pressure on women to complete their families early, before the fertility of their oöcytes declines.

$851,086 ARC Future Fellowship 2011 - 2015

An analysis of foetal imaging and the ethics of the selective termination of pregnancy

Dr Catherine J Mills (Medical Faculty, Sydney University) and Dr Niamh Stephenson (Public Health, UNSW)

This project examines the impacts of routine obstetric ultrasound on the experience of pregnancy, focusing on the ethics of selective termination following diagnosis of abnormalities. The project contributes to the national research priority goal of a healthy start to life, by examining the ethical aspects of ensuring foetal health in Australia.

$193,000 ARC Discovery Grant

Bio-objects and their boundaries: governing matters at the intersection of society, politics, and science International research network

This program supports a research network of European and Biopolitics of Science (Sydney University) doctoral, postdoctoral and senior scholars working on social studies of the biosciences. The program has a particular focus on the production and circulation of "bio-objects", such as stem cells, chimera, tissue samples or genetically modified organisms. The network develops novel interdisciplinary tools based on a range of evidence that will improve our understanding of "bio-objects", their production and governance. The core questions are: how are the boundaries between human and animal, organic and non-organic, living and the non-living opened up?; how do bio-objects change social relations?; how does the public-private interface shape the making of bio-objects?; and finally, how does the governance of bio-objects perform at different levels, from the level of regional bodies and nation states to the sub-political level, and finally in clinics and laboratories?


$34,000 Sydney University International Program Development fund
EU1.5 million European Commission COST (Collaboration in Science and Technology) program

Human oöcytes for stem cell research: donation and regulation in Australia

CI 1 Catherine Waldby, CI 2 Ian Kerridge, (Medical Faculty, Sydney University), CI 3 Loane Skene (Law, Melbourne University), Industry Partner Western Sydney IVF

This project investigates a pressing new area of bioethical concern for Australian stem cell research, the problem of research oöcyte donation. To date, most Australian and international bioethical debate and regulatory effort around human embryonic stem cell science has focused on the status of the embryo. However, new Australian legislation has recently legalized a new stem cell research technique - somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) - sometimes called therapeutic cloning. Australian SCNT research will require a good supply of fertile human oöcytes if it is to be successful. This project works with staff at Westmead Fertility Centre to a) identify the social considerations that lead some women to donate oöcytes for reproductive or research purposes and others to abstain; b) explore IVF staff views on the dilemmas surrounding research oöcyte donation; and c) investigate the effects of the regulatory environment on the donation process. Expert informants from policy, stem cell science and bioethics will also be interviewed. The project will make recommendations for oöcyte donation that reflect the perspectives, values and experiences of key stakeholders and enable the further development of equitable, ethical donation processes and policies.
Research staff: Katherine Carroll (SSPS Postdoctoral Fellow) and Margaret Boulos SSPS postgraduate research student

$305,000 ARC linkage Grant

From the tap to the bottle: an international study of the social and material life of bottled water

Kane Race (SOPHI) with Gay Hawkins, UNSW and Dr Emily Potter, Deakin

Using biopolitical theory and studies of consumption and materiality, this project seeks to understand the emergence of bottled water as the fastest growing market in the global beverage industry. The project examines the implications of this phenomenon for the public provision of potable tap water as well as the impact on the environment of plastic waste. A monograph based on the project is under contract with MIT Press.

$236,000 ARC Discovery Grant

Immigration restriction and the racial state, 1880s to the present

CI 1 Alison Bashford, (SOPHI) CI 2 Jane McAdam (Law, University of New South Wales), PI Sunil Amrith (History, University of London)

This project aims to re-map historical and legal understandings of the biopolitics and geopolitics of border control in the Asia-Pacific region. It will compare, analyse, and trace over time the understudied biological, racial and health criteria of identification and exclusion. Legal and historical scholarship needs fully to recognise that immigration restriction and public health are historically twinned and legislatively entwined. It is often overlooked that most immigration restriction acts included a 'loathsome disease' clause. Conversely, quarantine laws typically included powers to regulate human movement: to detain, deport, or restrict entry on biological grounds. The current hypothesis is that as explicit racial/national exclusion became less possible for law-makers over the 20th century, other kinds of somatic criteria were created and used to similar effect.

$343,000 ARC Discovery Grant

Developing clinical ethics capacity in NSW through partnership

Kerridge I, Stewart C, Carter S, Jordens C, Hooker C, Mills C, Cheung P, Hu W, Little JM, Letts J, Mitchell J, Walters W, Clout T

$459,384 NSW Health

The legal function of serious disability in prenatal and neonatal health care settings

Kristin Savell (Law) and Isabel Karpin

Increasing numbers of Australians are using prenatal testing technologies to avoid having a disabled child. Australians also have access to a range of sophisticated life-sustaining technologies for premature newborns and seriously imperiled infants. Legal guidance on the appropriate uses of these technologies is piecemeal and inconsistent across Australia's States and Territories, and the meaning of serious disability varies amongst members of the community. This project will benefit Australians by providing greater consistency in decision-making about disability. This will be achieved by assessing the value of a uniform framework for governing legal responses to serious disability in the context of reproduction.

$229,000 ARC Discovery 2009 - 2011

Racial laboratories and reproductive frontiers: the twentieth-century sciences of human hybridity

Warwick Anderson (SOPHI/Medical Faculty)

This project reconstructs a previously unidentified trans-national and trans-colonial network of research on race mixing in the twentieth century ¬ a global scientific debate on human segregation, assimilation, and absorption, involving human biologists, physical anthropologists, and sociologists. The historical study of the scientific investigations of ³race-crossing² conducted between 1910 and 1940 is long overdue. During this period there were more than twenty major scientific investigations of the effects of miscegenation in the Pacific, North America, Southeast Asia, South Africa and the Maghreb. This study concentrates largely on the extensive and influential series of studies of race mixing organized through the Department of Anthropology at Harvard University, one of the major pre-World War II sites for the training of physical anthropologists. That is, it is primarily an examination of the network of Harvard anthropologists conducting studies of frontier biology in the Pacific and elsewhere, tracing their ³miscegenation map² of the new world.

Guggenheim Fellowship 07-08; ARC Discovery Grant 08-10

Anatomies of empire: Race, evolution and scientific networks in the twentieth-century British world

Warwick Anderson and Ross Jones

This historical study reveals the network of anatomists and physical anthropologists that traversed the British Empire in the twentieth century, redefining what it means to be human. Although never before examined as a group, these were the dominant comparative anatomists, evolutionary theorists and race scientists of their day. Linking science, race, and public policy, they coined the term 'biopolitics' in the 1930s. We connect the imperial fieldwork of these public intellectuals to debates on human origins and the validity of racial classification, thus filling in this major missing piece of the story of race in science.

ARC Discovery Grant 2009-11, with APD for Jones 2009-11

State strategies of governance in global biomedical innovation: the impact of China and India

Catherine Waldby and Melinda Cooper

Catherine Waldby and Melinda Cooper are the Australian members of a newly created international research consortium. The consortium will hold a series of international research workshops over 2010 and 2011 that bring together scholars from China, Great Britain, India, Singapore, and the United States to analyse the growing role of China and India in life sciences innovation and the impact on global public health, healthcare systems and economic restructuring.

£75,000 Economic and Social Research Council (UK)

Risk, fire and urban security

Pat O'Malley]] (Law)

This project examines the development of a risk-focused approach to fire protection in Canada and Australia. Key questions concern why risk emerged as framework a century earlier than in such directly contiguous areas as crime control, and the ways in which this focus was promoted and developed by diverse ‘fire knowledges’ – especially insurance, engineering, architecture, fire services, police and local government. Related research questions focus on the ways in which risk-based governance has shifted its nature and form over time, for example from a primary focus on preventative security for property and a later prioritisation of saving life.

$255,000 ARC Discovery 2010 - 2012

Alcohol use and harm minimization among Australian university students

Tone Schofield, Rose Leontini (Behavioural and Social Sciences in Health, Sydney University), Fiona Giles (Media and Communications, Sydney University), John Germov (University of Newcastle), Jo Lindsay (Monash University ), Julie Hepworth (University of Queensland), Industry Partners AHAUCHI – University Colleges, NSW Health, Victoria Health

The 3-year project examines college and non-college based university students’ alcohol use in NSW and Victoria to identify barriers and opportunities for harm minimisation. Unlike previous studies, it focuses on the combination of the social dynamics of students’ alcohol use, their understandings of harm minimisation, what they themselves do to achieve it and the approaches adopted by university colleges and State health authorities to reduce the fallout from students’ heavy drinking. In light of this, the project’s specific aims are to examine the social organisation and social dynamics of university students’ alcohol use, and both students’ and institutions’ perspectives on harm minimisation. The project will produce a new evidence base and innovative theoretical framework for better understanding alcohol-related harm minimisation among university students and developing more effective strategies to advance it. The central study will be complemented by two doctoral investigations on social marketing campaigns directed at binge drinking, and alcohol use among university women.

$622,853 ARC Linkage Grant

Infectious diseases, security and ethics

Christian Enemark (University of Sydney) and Michael Selgelid (Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, ANU)

The emergence and spread of deadly infectious diseases increasingly pose health, economic, security and ethical challenges for Australia and the world. This 3-year project investigates links between infectious diseases, national security and human ethics. Its aims are: to identify and assess the national security and ethical considerations associated with government responses to five infectious diseases: pandemic influenza, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), cholera, tuberculosis (TB) and HIV/AIDS; and to develop policy recommendations for effective disease control which strike a sensible balance between safeguarding individual rights and the obligation of governments to protect its citizens from disease. We adopt an interdisciplinary approach to these problems, integrating aspects of bioethics, public health, political science, history and law. This project aims to promote greater understanding within the community of the national security and ethical implications of infectious disease threats; recommend policies for responding in ways that achieve better public health, national security and human rights outcomes for Australians; and create national and international linkages between academics, PhD students and non-academic professionals.

$260,000 ARC Discovery Project Grant for 2009-2011