Emilia Musumeci

The body between history and law: new research perspectives

  • Abstract

Informations and abstract

Keywords: Human Body; Legal History; Biolaw; Torture; Suicide; Contagion of Venereal Disease; Italian Penal Codification.

The "summa divisio" between "res" and "persona" has generated the belief that the human body, not falling completely into either of the two categories, should be excluded from the horizon of the law. In reality, law has played an important role in governing bodies since ancient times. It is suffice to think about the use of torture to obtein confessions from supposed criminals or as penalty in the «gloomy festival of punishment» as masterfully depicted by Michel Foucault. If this topic has been effectively studied many other issues related to the legal dimension of the body, are still at the margins of the scientific interests of the historians of law. For instance, the crimes related to suicide in the nineteenth century and the crime of contagion of venereal disease in the twentieth century as disciplined by the penal codes in their respective epochs could be analysed in order to write in the future an innovative legal history of the body. These have been indeed two different and symbolic means of governing bodies implemented by penal law; even though they have reflected different values in any case were united by the common intent of controlling intimate and seemingly external aspects to the assumed 'abstract' legal world: life and death, health and disease, fertility and infertility.

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