Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Associate Professor, Gender Studies

Director of Graduate Studies, Gender Studies

Affiliate Faculty, African Studies

Affiliate Faculty, Maurer School of Law


  • Ph.D., Women’s Studies, University of California, Los Angeles, 2012
  • J.D., University of Cincinnati, 2000
  • M.A., Women’s Studies, University of Cincinnati, 2000
  • B.A., Government and Economics, Georgetown University, 1995

About Laura Foster

Dr. Foster’s research broadly focuses on the co-constituted relationships of law and science, and how such interactions historically structure and reinforce certain bodies, identities, knowledges, and practices over others. She draws upon her expertise in science and technology studies, feminist and critical race legal theory, transnational/post-colonial feminisms, feminist research methodologies, and intellectual property law as well as her legal practice experience in both human rights and corporate law in the U.S. and in Southern Africa.

Professor Foster is currently completing a manuscript that examines how a patented plant found in Southern Africa historically circulates and changes meaning through colonial botanical sciences, patent law rules, ethno-pharmaceutical research, contractual benefit sharing, and sustainable fair trade practices. This research produces ethnographic understandings of how the plant and Indigenous peoples’ knowledge and identity are co-produced through narratives of indigeneity, race, and gender, while novel modes of unequal citizenship are emerging within post-colonial, post-apartheid South Africa. This research was supported by a National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Grant.

She has also recently begun a qualitative study on the emergence of genomic research within South Africa. In particular, this study asks how genetic ancestry testing in South Africa functions, in both powerful and limited ways, as an anti-racist discourse embedded in post-colonial and post-apartheid histories, while producing new configurations of kinship, relatedness, and law.

Dr. Foster is also actively engaged in the Tarrytown Meetings Network, a group of experts working to ensure that emerging biotechnologies are advancing social justice and human rights.

Selected publications

Foster, Laura. Re-inventing Hoodia: Patentability, Materiality, and Belonging in South Africa(under contract - University of Washington Press - Feminist Technosciences Series)

Foster, Laura A. 2016. "Decolonizing Patent Law: Postcolonial Technoscience and Indigenous Knowledge in South Africa." Feminist Formations 28 (3).

Foster, Laura A. 2016. "A Postapartheid Genome: Genetic Ancestry Testing and Belonging in South Africa." Science, Technology, & Human Values 41 (6).

Foster, Laura A. 2016. "The Making and Unmaking of Patent Ownership: Technicalities, Materialities, and Subjectivities." PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 39 (1):127-143.

Foster, Laura A. 2014. "Critical Cultural Translation: A Socio-Legal Framework for Regulatory Orders." Special Invited Issue on Regulatory Translations. Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies 21:1: 79-105.

Foster, Laura A. 2012. "Patents, Biopolitics, and Feminisms: Locating Patent Law Struggles Over Breast Cancer Genes and the Hoodia Plant." Special Invited Issue on Patent Law and Property. International Journal of Cultural Property 19(3): 371-400.

Foster, Laura A. 2011. "Situating Feminisms, Patent Law, and the Public Domain," Columbia Journal of Gender and Law 20(1): 261- 347.

Subramaniam, Banu, Laura Foster, Sandra Harding, Deboleena Roy, and Kim TallBear. 2017. "Feminism, Postcolonialism, and Technoscience." In Handbook of Science and Technology Studies, edited by Clark Miller, Laurel Smith-Doerr, Ullrike Felt and Rayvon Fouch�. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press/4S.

Foster, Laura A. "Privatizing Knowledge: Patent Ownership, Benefit Sharing, and Indigenous Knowledge in South Africa," in Privatization, Vulnerability, and Social Responsibility, ed. Martha Fineman (Burlington, VT: Ashgate/Routledge Press). (forthcoming)