Law Text Culture


This essay argues that the ‘materiality’ of life and law are today technological artefacts of a biopolitical project, and that sexual-reproductive and legislative boundaries are the boundaries around which power coheres and materializes—making life law’s matter, an effect that is slyly taken up as legal ‘cause’. I offer as case studies readings of two incommensurable texts: Milan Kundera’s political fiction, The Joke, and the contemporary fertility industry, an instantiation of biopolitical techno-science. Bringing into tension the ‘materiality’ of life and law across these two sites, I hope to surface some of the vernaculars of (bio)political power—rhetorical matters of historical, political, socioeconomic, and technological concern that nevertheless claim the objectivity of ‘matter’. Both texts also concern reproduction—sexual, artificial, cultural, political—and how it is used to promote a certain ideology of citizenship and to regulate political ‘freedoms’. While Kundera’s novel, written in the 1960s, represents a critique of ‘old’ materialism as the reproduction of Communist State power, here, in juxtaposition, Kundera’s fiction occasions my critique of (legal) ‘new’ materialism—as neoliberal and biopolitical investment in the speculative futures proffered by the fertility industry.