The Legal Molecule – Law, Culture and the Humanities – article

The Legal Molecule

David Delaney | Law, Culture and the Humanities


Situated at the intersection of the cultural study of pharmaceuticals and the cultural study of law and using Trantor’s (2011) critique of ‘the law and technology enterprise’ as a point of departure, this paper examines the pill as a techno-legal device. Just as pills contain an active pharmacological ingredient so too do they contain active legal ingredients. Where the molecular composition of pills are designed by chemists their legal-semic aspects are designed by lawyers. These are collaborative projects. Where the former are interested in the effects of molecules at bio-sites, the latter are concerned with the effects of legal signifiers in relation to each other as interpreted in a range of hermeneutic sites through cultural practices of reading and meta-reading. These meanings are built into the molecule itself thus resulting in the fabrication of legal molecules.


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