Enacting the human in the social biologies – workshop

9th June 2017, The Liberty Building, University of Leeds

Recent decades have witnessed significant advances in biological knowledge, notably in the fields of genomics, epigenetics and neuroscience. These fields have challenged our understanding of what it is to be human, as well as constituting new ways to live as human. A significant aspect of this new scientific landscape is the turn to the social or environmental. In this, what were once imagined as immutable facts of existence – hardwired biological codes, systems, and processes – have lost their indifference to the social world. In particular, bodies have become porous to and shaped by environments of abuse and disadvantage. The Centre for Law & Social Justice and the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies, School of Law, University of Leeds, are hosting this workshop to address legal and social science responses to these profound epistemic shifts. The workshop brings together academics from the University of Leeds, University of Sheffield, and University Technology Sydney to explore what these new knowledges (or knowledge claims) might tell us about what it is to be human in the 21st century, what new communities and responsibilities they might create, and how law and policy should respond. In this, the workshop also explores the values and norms that have become embedded in the science that is increasingly shaping law and policy.

Further details, including abstracts and a link to the registration page, are available here:


The event is free to attend but registration in advance is essential. We look forward to welcoming you to the Liberty Building.

Sam Lewis & Michael Thomson
School of Law



09:00 Registration and Refreshments
09:30 Welcome and Introductions
09:45-11:30 Being and living social(ly)

Maurizio Meloni, Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield
The Postgenomic Body: Another plasticity is emerging

Greg Hollin, School of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Leeds
Nadia’s lesson on humanity: Autism, cave art, and what it means to be human.

Anne Kerr, School of Sociology & Social Policy, University of Leeds
Mainstreaming Cancer Genomics: Implications for Biosociality

11:30 Refreshments
12:00-13:15 Law, criminal justice & the social biologies

Sam Lewis, School of Law, University of Leeds
Understanding and challenging British criminologists’ antipathy towards neuroscience.

Karen O’Connell, Faculty of Law, University Technology Sydney
Hostile environments: Sexual harassment and gendered bioinequalities

13:15-14:00 Lunch
14:00-15:15 The persistent female subject of law, science & policy

Sue White, Department of Sociological Studies, University of Sheffield
From rat Mum to my Mum – making ‘good enough’ mothers in the age of the inhospitable womb?

Isabel Karpin, Faculty of Law, University Technology Sydney
Legal responses to the transmission of psychosocial harm as “maternal stress”.

15:15-15:45 Refreshments
15:45-17:00 Roundtable: regulating the multiply social body

This roundtable, chaired by Michael Thomson, explores with workshop participants the regulatory demands and possible futures created by advances in the life sciences. Workshop participants have been asked to consider how law and policy should respond, what challenges exist to equitable and just law and policy, and the role of social sciences in the production of socially and scientifically robust science and in the socially just translation of scientific knowledge into public discourse and policy.