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Law and Critique, vol. 34, no. 1, Feb. 2022, pp. 105–125, doi:10.1007/s10978-022-09319-0.


3D bioprinting; Embodied legal theory; Law and the body; Ontogenesis; Sociotechnical imaginaries


Three-dimensional ‘bioprinting’ is under development, which may produce living human organs and tissues to be surgically implanted in patients. Like tissue engineering and regenerative medicine generally, the process of bioprinting potentially disrupts experience of the human body by redefining understandings of, and becoming actualised in new practices and regimes in relation to, the body. The authors consider how these novel sociotechnical imaginaries may emerge, having regard to law’s contribution to, as well as its possible transformation by, the process of 3D bioprinting. The authors draw on Gilbert Simondon and corporeal, material feminists to account for these disruptions as ‘ontogenetic,’ in the sense that technology can produce new ontologies or beings. The authors focus namely on ontogenesis, individuation and the pre-individual forces that comprise, and yet remain inexhausted by, the process of 3D bioprinting. The authors argue legal phenomena are pre-individual forces that ‘in-form’ ontogenesis. These pre-individual forces are indistinguishable from those implicated in the individuation of the body’s physical form; thereby, the individuation of the bodily material through 3D bioprinting may be expressive and generative of sociolegal phenomena, at least as those relate to the body. The authors conclude that 3D bioprinting shores up conventional, liberal conceptions in law of the human body as individual, bounded and primarily contractual. Three-dimensional bioprinting may introduce ontological difference to the extent it promises and realises a new temporality of the human as a species- and legal-subject, although such a development would only seem to expand, rather than attenuate, a biopolitical regime.

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