UCL Faculty of Laws


"The Normal Body" with Dr Clare Chambers

26 February 2019, 4:00 pm–6:00 pm

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Part of the series in Colloquium in Law, Politics & Philosophy

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LG26, UCL Faculty of Laws
Bentham House, Endsleigh Gardens


with Dr Clare Chambers

Reader in Political Philosophy, University of Cambridge

This event will involve discussion of a pre-circulated paper by the author. If you are not on the mailing list for the Collouqium in Law, Politics & Philosophy, please contact jeffrey.howard@ucl.ac.uk to receive the paper.


This paper is a chapter from my forthcoming book, Intact: The Political Philosophy of the Unmodified Body. The book will argue that the concept of the unmodified body is philosophically puzzling yet politically significant. The first task is to identify what an unmodified body is. The concept of the normal body, discussed in this paper, is one possible answer. It is tempting to think that there can be an objectively normal body: a body which is like others. It is also tempting to think that this concept can lead to a rigorous distinction between clinical procedures, which protect or restore bodily normality, and cultural or cosmetic procedures, which do not. But the idea of a normal body is actually extremely problematic. This chapter uses examples of body modification practices such as male circumcision, female genital mutilation, and breast implants to argue that normality is a deeply cultural concept. We cannot identify the normal body without invoking hierarchical structures of gender, race, class, disability, and age.


Clare Chambers is Reader in Political Philosophy and a Fellow of Jesus College, University of Cambridge. She is the author of Against Marriage: An Egalitarian Defence of the Marriage-Free State (Oxford University Press, 2017); Sex, Culture, and Justice: The Limits of Choice (Penn State University Press, 2008); Teach Yourself Political Philosophy: A Complete Introduction (with Phil Parvin, Hodder, 2012); and numerous articles and chapters on feminist and liberal political philosophy.

This event is part of the UCL Colloquium in Law, Politics & Philosophy.

Book your place (free of charge)