Laura Foster

Laura Foster

Associate Professor, 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

Laura Foster is an Associate Professor of Gender Studies and Affiliate Faculty in African Studies and Law at Indiana University and a Senior Researcher at the IP Unit, University of Cape Town. Her research explores questions of power and inequality at the nexus of law, science, technology, and the nonhuman. In particular, she is interested in relationships of technoscience, governance, gender, race, indigeneity, plants, health, and justice within histories of South Africa and Appalachia. Her innovative interdisciplinary research contributes to conversations in feminist science and technology studies (STS), critical plant studies, socio-legal studies, Indigenous and Native studies, African studies, critical intellectual property studies, and feminist data studies.

In her first book, Reinventing Hoodia: Peoples, Plants, and Patents in South Africa (2017), Foster develops and models a feminist decolonial technoscience approach to the study of law, science, and markets. In her current ethnographic book project, Vegetal Feminisms: Human-Plant Ecologies, Smart Farming, and the Governing of Artificial Intelligence in South Africa, Foster examines the ecologies of smart farming technologies, farm workers, fruit trees, grape vines, and the governing of artificial intelligence (AI) as a site for simultaneously understanding a changing South African politics and for considering how the vegetal subject offers a more meaningful model for queer, feminist thought and politics. Her research has also been published in several journals including Science Technology & Human Values; PoLaR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review; Indiana Journal of Global Legal Studies; and International Journal of Cultural Property; and Columbia Journal of Gender and law.

Foster is the founder of the SciTechLaw Lab at Indiana University, co-book review editor for the journal Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, and co-producer of the Technoscience Podcast.

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 Feminism, 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)