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Chris Dietz: School of Law: Protecting vulnerable families: legal enclosures and (hetero)normativity

CIGS Seminar Series 2013-14
News and Events

Date: 27 November 2013, 5.00pm
Location: Seminar Room, Beech Grove House

Critical accounts of law often characterise courts as spaces of institutionalised privilege which reproduce heteronormativity by denying queer and/or feminist subjectivities. A longstanding dialogue has turned on the question of how this can be challenged strategically.

Drawing on research conducted with Dr Julie Wallbank into judicial interpretations of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act 2008, this paper enters this debate at a point when reform has been enacted by law; where the ‘vulnerable’ lesbian co-parent has become a legal subject. Maintaining a systemic perspective – to avoid judging individual identities and behaviours according to an unproductive assimilation/transgression binary – it will propose that there is value in considering spatial abstractions, such as that of the legal enclosure, so as to conceptualise the implications of this imposition of vulnerability. It will ask how the protection of this identity affects the political motivation at the foundation of some family projects; for example where a lesbian couple uses a known donor whom it is intended will have a role in parenting post-birth. It will reflect on issues of gender, sexuality and power, and specifically how these have been approached by the family court when exercising the child welfare test.