20th Century Continental Philosophy
My research in the field of bioethics concentrates on issues in reproductive ethics. I am particularly interested in questions that arise from selective reproductive technologies, such as obstetric ultrasound, PGD and other foetal diagnostic tests. These technologies provoke questions about ideals of normalcy, disability, pregnant embodiment and reproductive autonomy and responsibility (especially of women). To address these, I draw on feminist theory, moral philosophy, continental philosophy and disability studies.
One point of connection between bioethics and feminist theory is in theorizing the body and its moral significance. Recent feminist theory has challenged the philosophical emphasis on cognition as the central characteristic of subjectivity, to show that the subjectivity is inherently embodied. Much of my work is concerned with the implications of this for bioethics. Additionally, I have been interested in the work of Judith Butler, and the theorisation of gender performativity that she has proposed.
In 20th century continental philosophy, my research has mainly contributed to the debate on ‘biopolitics’ that has arisen from the work of Michel Foucault. This debate centres on matters of political power and the body, especially the ways that modern states manage the lives of their citizens through measures such as public health, immigration policy and so on. I have written on the work of Italian political philosopher, Giorgio Agamben, as well as on Foucault and others. I also have a strong interest in the work of French philosopher of science, Georges Canguilhem, and an increasing interest in some aspects of phenomenology.
I am currently engaged in two funded projects that combine aspects of these research interests. The first is a project on the concept of responsibility as it pertains to ethical issues in reproductive and maternal-fetal medicine. This project is supported by an ARC Future Fellowship (FT120100026).
The second is a study of the ethical and legal implications of inheritable genetic modification of human embryos, through technologies such as mitochondrial replacement therapy and CRISPER-Cas9. This project is supported by an ARC DP grant, in collaboration with Prof. Robert Sparrow, Dr Karinne Ludlow and Dr. Narelle Warren.
Higher Degree Research Supervision
I am particularly interested in supervising graduate research projects in:
- bioethics, (especially topics in reproductive ethics)
- feminist theory and ethics (eg. Butler, care ethics)
- Continental philosophy (esp. Foucault, biopolitics, concepts of responsibility).
- Philosophy of disability
- Philosophy of medicine
Projects might combine these interests or may be addressed to only one of them.
I am currently supervising projects on the ethics of ectogenesis and assisted dying and biopolitics. I have previously supervised graduate research on the work of Agamben, Derrida, Foucault, the idea of lifestyle in public health, and personal genomics.
1- “Legal and ethical issues in the inheritable genetic modification of humans”. Mills, C. (1st Investigator), Ludlow, K., Sparrow, R. Warren, N. Australian Research Council Discovery Project, DP170100919: $215, 000.
Project description: The aim of this interdisciplinary project is to investigate the legal and ethical implications of technologies that allow inheritable modifications of the human genome. The use of these technologies in human embryos is fast becoming an international reality, and this project aims to be the first to rigorously examine the implications of this in the Australian context. The intended outcomes of the Project are to clarify the current legal status of inheritable genetic modification technologies in Australia, provide a comprehensive analysis of the ethics of these new technologies, and, building on this, propose a set of recommendations for regulatory reform to guide Australia’s response to international scientific and legal developments.
2- “A new understanding of responsibility in the ethics of human reproduction”. Mills, C. Australian Research Council Future Fellowship, FT120100026: $678, 994.
Project description: Prenatal testing technologies and medical interventions are transforming the experience of pregnancy, especially the relationship between the pregnant woman and the foetus. In doing so, these increasingly routine technologies raise difficult ethical questions for prospective parents and the Australian community. This project generates a new theory of reproductive responsibility that accounts for the ethical significance of the maternal-foetal relationship. In the project, I examine topics such as prenatal testing, foetal alcohol spectrum disorder and intra-uterine therapy (foetal surgery).
3 – “Ultrasound, Embodiment and Abortion: An analysis of foetal images and the ethics of selective termination of pregnancy”. Mills, C. (1st Investigator) and Stephenson, N. Australian Research Council Discovery Project, DP110100752: $193,000.
Project description: Obstetric ultrasound screening is a routine aspect of pregnancy, and foetal images are a familiar part of our cultural landscape. Using multi-dimensional social research and philosophical analysis, this project investigates the ways ultrasound screening shapes the experience of pregnancy and impacts on the continuation or termination of pregnancy following diagnosis of foetal abnormalities. It will contribute to developing an innovative theoretical framework for understanding the ethics of abortion that takes into account women’s embodied experience.