A Question of Life

The Global Observatory aims to expand the conversations around concepts and norms concerning human life and dignity. Where human life begins and how lives become worthy of state protection are in flux around the world. Abortion struggles in Latin America have created conceptual and political resources that allow us to delve more deeply into these questions from a regional perspective that is less familiar to actors in the Global North. With this workshop, we seek to create a space for discussions that reflect on how what is at stake for women in abortion politics and the moral status of the embryo are being framed and contested in a region with different political and spiritual traditions from those in the United States. We will attend to this bioconstitutional moment in Latin American countries where abortion’s legal status is changing and place these moments in global and historical context. This workshop thus forms part of our ongoing inquiry into the development of a cosmopolitan ethics on questions at the frontiers of life.


Introduction, 8:45-9:00 am EST

Sheila Jasanoff, Harvard University

Panel 1: Reframing Rights in Abortion Politics, 9:00-10:30 am EST

This panel will provide an overview of abortion debates and legislative shifts across selected countries, highlighting shifts in states’ role in governing life, and the accompanying definitions and meanings of life.

Cora Fernandez Anderson, Mt. Holyoke College

Amy Krauss, University of Chicago

Sandra Patricia González Santos, Anáhuac University

Lisa Smyth, Queen’s University Belfast

Chair: J. Benjamin Hurlbut, Arizona State University

Discussant: Aziza Ahmed, UC Irvine

Panel 2: Human Life and the End of Rights, 10:45 am-12:15 pm EST

This panel will examine how legacies of violence, conflict, and disappearance have shaped political imaginations of the human and how these legacies inform debates over life and the life sciences. Delving into the legacies and narratives shaping current biopolitical debates allows us to reflect on the constitutional arrangements underlying modes of valuing life, including in abortion politics.

Barbara Sutton, SUNY Albany

Kaushik Sunder Rajan, University of Chicago

Nancy Scheper-Hughes, UC Berkeley

Ingrid Metzler, University of Vienna 

Chair: Luis Eslava, University of Kent 

Discussant: Lindsay Smith, Arizona State University