Research Network for Culture, Law and the Body


cfp bodily integrity and criminal justice ESSHC 2025

As part of the activities of the Research Network for Law, Culture and the Body, we’re putting together a panel on the history of bodily autonomy in criminal justice for the next meeting of the ESSHC in Leiden in March 2025 (Criminal Justice Network). We’re hoping that some of you might be willing to join us in a panel. The deadline for submitting the panel to the conference is 15 April 2024, so to give us some time to put everything together we would need to receive your abstracts (100-500 words) by Wednesday 10 April 2024 at the latest (it’s short notice, for which our apologies!) to and

This is our preliminary description of the session, but we can adapt in function of your proposals:

Criminal justice and policing are intimately entwined with conceptions about the autonomy and integrity of the human body. Criminal justice acts as a defender against infringements on bodily integrity, such as physical or sexual violence, while at the same time, the body is a crucial piece of evidence and a key target of judicial punishment and discipline. The question of who has the right to infringe upon a human body is hence one that has been under continuous negotiation over the past centuries. Examples include discussions on the castration of sex offenders as a form of punishment, debate on the use of bodily samples such as blood or DNA as evidence, the search of perpetrators’ or victims’ bodies by the police, and the codification of the right to bodily integrity in the law.

In this panel, we connect the growing field of body history with the history of criminal justice and discuss the following questions:

-How have ideas about bodily autonomy and integrity impacted criminal laws and procedures?

-How were ideas and practices relating to bodily integrity gendered?

-To what extent did these changing ideas impact what crimes were prosecuted?

-And how did these ideas on bodily autonomy and integrity impact police officers’, experts’ and judges’ own infringements upon the bodies of suspects, witnesses or victims?

Elwin Hofman and Willemijn Ruberg