Being/Human: What human rights do with sex, drugs and bodies

Event status:

Kate Seear is an Associate Professor in Law at the Faculty of Law, Monash University You're invited to this public seminar as part of the Australian Research Centre in Sex, Health and Society (ARCSHS) seminar series, presenting Associate Professor Kate Seear (Monash University)

Wednesday 07 August 2019 12:30 pm until Wednesday 07 August 2019 01:30 pm (Add to calendar)
ARCSHS Event staff
9479 8700;
Presented by:
Associate Professor Kate Seear (Monash University)
Type of Event:
Public Lecture; Seminar/Workshop/Training
Free (No RSVP required)

Earlier this year, the United Nations Chief Executives Board released a landmark statement, endorsing the decriminalisation of drug possession for personal use, and calling for evidence-based, human rights-based approaches to drug policy. In its emphasis on human rights, the UNCEB joins numerous national and international organisations who now see value in human rights as a framework for building more ‘humane’ drug policies. But what are human rights, and what can they do? Are they a unifying logic for more generous and humane policies and laws? Are they a bulwark on state power? Or do they sometimes function to re/produce social norms and state power over bodies and subjects? Using examples taken from two very different fields both involving drugs (mandated treatment of people who use drugs and athletes with ‘differences of sex development’ in sport), this presentation explores how human rights, drugs, bodies and power intersect and function together to reproduce normative assumptions about proper ways of being human. I draw upon ideas from feminist science studies, feminist scholarship on human rights, and other critical human rights literature, including Hannah Arendt’s criticism of human rights for the ‘stateless’ and John Erni’s work on human rights and sexuality. I argue that human rights can work to instantiate particular and limited notions of ‘the human’, at least in relation to drug use. Human rights can constitute the subject as ‘differently’ or as ‘improperly’ human, authorising medico-legal interventions, governance, violence and control, in a bid to ‘humanise’ subjects and make them as differently human. Importantly, these connections can also be redone or remade if we think differently about what it means to ‘be human’. I explore some of these possibilities in this presentation.

Kate Seear is an Associate Professor in Law at the Faculty of Law, Monash University, Australia. She was an Australian Research Council DECRA Fellow (2016-2019), is a practising lawyer, the Academic Director of the Springvale Monash Legal Service, and an Adjunct Research Fellow at the National Drug Research Institute at Curtin University. She is the author of numerous books, reports and articles, including the books: Law, Drugs and the Making of Addiction: Just Habits (forthcoming through Routledge), and Making Disease, Making Citizens: The politics of hepatitis C (with Suzanne Fraser). She is an editor of the collection Critical Perspectives on Coercive Interventions: Law, Medicine and Society. She is also a founder and co-host of the multi-award winning ABC podcast and radio show The Outer Sanctum. The program focuses primarily on AFL, and considers some of the social, political, cultural and legal issues in sport. The program regularly examines intersections between sport and human rights, violence against women, sexism, racism, ableism, homophobia and transphobia, as well as diversity, inclusion and fandom.


Martin Building, Room 241, La Trobe University, Bundoora

Martin Building, La Trobe University, Bundoora



2nd Jun 2020 2:02pm

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