The aim of this AHRC network is to advance and support interdisciplinary research into the theme of law and the human, bringing scholars from several continents into communication across the spectrum of social sciences, law and the humanities.
Few people would disagree that today, the fields of science, medicine, technological and computational advancement, together with changes in political culture, are reshaping human life. Law is ever-present in these changes, with a significant role in the regulation of biomedical, technological, and information infrastructures, and our interactions with them. At the core of these interactions lie often unexplored fundamental conceptions of human life, many of which are legacies of older, legal traditions. From human embryology research, to robotics and AI research, automation and algorithms, and new germline modification techniques of genetic engineering, law frequently uses its understanding of human life as both a check on rapid change, and as the underlying basis of its authority.
What is often at stake when law interacts with the frontiers of change today is the very definition of the human and human life. Given law’s ongoing power to regulate and adjudicate, its notions of human life remain crucially important. But as new figurations of humanity emerge in diverse fields in interaction with law, what is the fate of law’s age-old conceptions of the human? There can be no one, simple answer to this question, in an era of such complex expansion and development in multiple fields, new global and cultural interactions, and emergent reconceptualisations of human life that push current intellectual frontiers. Attention to individual cases may reveal that law’s ideas of the human sometimes remain static amidst rapid change; elsewhere perhaps we see legal ideas in subtle evolution.
The network will draw together this research to identify core themes, questions and potential approaches to the human and its relationship to law, to explore these themes, and to disseminate its findings throughout and beyond the Academy.