Patents, Biopolitics, and Feminisms: Locating Patent Law Struggles Over Breast Cancer Genes and the Hoodia Plant [Article]

Laura Foster
Publication Date
2012

This article suggests three critical inquiries for formulating a feminist analysis of patent law. The first questions how patent law functions as a strategy within neoliberal, biopolitics. The second examines how patent law is structured through biopolitical techniques of governance by examining two conceptions of the public domain I call open public domain and protective public domain. The third inquiry, drawing upon feminist science studies, asks how women’s reproductive and intellectual labor are valued and devalued in various different ways through new patent law technologies. In addition, two recent patent law are struggles are examined. These include an American Civil Liberties Union case against the patenting of breast cancer gene sequences and Southern African San struggles against patents related to the Hoodia gordonii plant. In conclusion, I argue that patent law functions within gendered and ethno-racialized forms of neoliberal, biopolitics involving the patenting of women’s reproductive and intellectual labor within new bioeconomics.

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Citation

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.