Portrait of Professor Emilie Cloatre

Professor Emilie Cloatre

Professor in Law, Wellcome Investigator
Co-Director of Research


Professor Emilie Cloatre is a socio-legal scholar whose main research interests lie in the intersection between law and contemporary 'science and society' issues, including pharmaceutical flows, access to health, and the regulation of alternative and traditional medicine. Her approach to law is influenced by insights from Science and Technology Studies, and in particular by Actor-Network Theory. Her publications include Pills for the Poorest: an Exploration of TRIPS and access to Medicines in sub-Saharan African (Palgrave McMillan, 2013 - awarded the 2014 Hart Socio-Legal Book prize) and Knowledge, Technology and Law (Routledge, 2014, with Martyn Pickersgill). She is currently Principal Investigator for 5-year Wellcome Trust project (Investigator Award, 2017-2022) entitled “Law, knowledges and the making of ‘modern’ healthcare: regulating traditional and alternative medicines in contemporary contexts”. 

Before joining Kent in 2010, she was a lecturer at the School of Law, University of Nottingham, and ESRC postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Science and Society, University of Nottingham. She has held visiting positions at the Centre for the Study of Law and Society, University of California at Berkeley; the Genomics Forum, University of Edinburgh; the School of Law, University of Singapore; and the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. She was principal investigator for the AHRC Network Technoscience, Law and Society from 2013-2015.

Research interests

Professor Cloatre’s current research is primarily focused on a Wellcome Trust project (Investigator Award, 2017-2022) entitled “Law, knowledges and the making of ‘modern’ healthcare: regulating traditional and alternative medicines in contemporary contexts”. This project aims to explore the regulation of traditional and alternative medicines in Europe and Africa, interrogating both the historical and socio-cultural context of current regulatory systems, and their effects on local practices. It will do so through a socio-legal exploration of the regulation of traditional and alternative medicines in two regions where policy conversations have been particularly intense, and current regulatory systems remarkably varied (Europe and Africa). It will focus on six case studies, in three sub-regions that offer an overview both of the diversity of contexts in which those questions arise, and of the diversity in regulatory responses that states have adopted: France and England; Ghana and Senegal and Mauritius and La Reunion. For more information on the project, please see the project website.

Her broader research interests concern the relationship between law and medicine, and the politics of healthcare. Since 2010, her research has interrogated the important and frequently neglected issue of how law and medical practices constitute each other, with a particular attention to postcolonial contexts. Her key concern has been to explore the importance of law in furthering, perpetuating or, potentially, challenging health inequalities. This has been articulated around three themes: social justice and access to healthcare; ownership, medicine and global (in)equalities; and, more recently, resistance and legal change. Through this work, she have explored several jurisdictional contexts including Djibouti, Ghana, Ireland, the UK and international law. 

Conceptually, her work is located at the crossroad of law, Science and Technology Studies and (legal and medical) anthropology, and aims use such interdisciplinary insights to enhance understandings of law in practice. From 2013-2015 she led the AHRC network Technoscience, Law and Society, and is co-Director of the Social Critiques of Law Research Group (SoCriL)) since 2013. 


I am not teaching this academic year due to research and administrative commitments.


I welcome application from PhD students in my areas of expertise. This includes research on law and medicine, public and global health, as well as projects related to my broader thematic interests (development and inequalities, scientific knowledge and law, expertise and governance). I am also happy to consider projects that echo my conceptual and methodological interests (Law and posthuman theories; law and anthropology; law and Science and Technology Studies).


I am a member of the Socio-legal Studies Association; the editorial boards of the Medical Law Review and Droit et Société; and the Wellcome Trust Social Science and Bioethics Expert Review Group.



  • Cloatre, E. and Enright, M. (2018). Transformative Illegality: How Condoms ‘Became Legal’ In Ireland, 1990-1993. Feminist Legal Studies [Online] 26. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007%2Fs10691-018-9392-1.
    This paper examines Irish campaigns for condom access in the early 1990’s. Against the backdrop of the AIDS crisis, activists campaigned against a law which would not allow condoms to be sold from ordinary commercial spaces or vending machines, and restricted sale to young people. Advancing a conception of ‘transformative illegality’, we show that illegal action was fundamental to the eventual legalisation of commercial condom sale. However, rather than foregrounding illegal condom sale as a mode of spectacular direct action, we show that tactics of illegal sale in the 1990s built on twenty years of everyday illegal sale within the Irish family planning movement. Everyday illegal sale was a long-term world-making practice, which gradually transformed condoms’ legal meanings, eventually enabling new forms of provocative and irreverent protest. Condoms ‘became legal’ when the state recognised modes of condom sale, gradually built up over many years and publicised in direct action and in the courts.
  • Cloatre, E. (2018). Regulating Alternative Healing in France, and the Problem of ‘Non-Medicine’. Medical Law Review [Online]:1-26. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/medlaw/fwy024/5046024.
    This article explores the ambiguities of the legal system that, in France, regulates ‘alternative healing’, and determines the boundaries of legitimate medical care. While the law suggests that the delivery of therapeutic care should be the monopoly of biomedically-trained professionals, alternative healers operate very widely, and very openly, in France. They practice, however, on the verge of (il)legality, often organising their activities, individually and collectively, so as to limit the likelihood of state intervention. This creates a high degree of precarity for both practitioners and, crucially, for patients. Efforts to change the system are being deployed, but while healers themselves have increasingly organised to seek recognition by the state, alternative healing occupies an uncertain policy space: they are not fully constituted as a social and policy matter by the state, and occupy a liminal position between medicine and spirituality that “unsettles” republican ideals of scientific rationality, and of secularism. This article explores some of those tensions, at the crossroad between law, science, and medicine. It reflects on why tensions seem to persist around the regulatory questions at stake, and suggests that ways forward may depend on moving away from science as a sole arbiter in drawing boundaries of legitimate and illegitimate care in regulation.
  • Cloatre, E. (2018). Law and ANT (and its Kin): Possibilities, Challenges, and Ways Forward. Journal of Law and Society [Online] 45:646-663. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1111/jols.12133.
    This paper interrogates the contributions that Actor-Network Theory (ANT) has made, and can continue to make, to the critical study of law. Both within its original field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) and beyond, ANT has enabled a reimagining of the ‘social’ as relational, heterogeneous and fluid. In turn, it has argued for a renewed attention to materiality in social analysis. For law, such approach is potentially fruitful, significant, and disruptive of a number of assumptions of previous (socio-)legal scholarship. In this paper, I sketch out key elements (and critiques) of ANT, previous efforts to bring ANT into law, and discuss its potential for enhancing understandings of law. At the same time, I argue that ANT in law is best approached with a commitment to care, and to kinship, and in conversation with feminist thinkers, legal ethnographies and the discrete voices of law.
  • Cloatre, E. and Enright, M. (2017). 'On the Perimeter of the Lawful': Enduring Illegality in the Irish Family Planning Movement, 1972-1985. Journal of Law and Society [Online] 44:471-500. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/jols.12055.
    Between 1935 and 1985, Irish law criminalised the sale and importation of condoms. Activists established illegal markets to challenge the law and alleviate its social consequences. They distributed condoms through postal services, shops, stalls, clinics and machines. Though they largely operated in the open, their activities attracted little direct punishment from the state, and they were able to build a stable network of medical and commercial family planning services. We use 30 interviews conducted with former activists to explore this history. In doing so, we also examine the limits of ‘illegality’ in describing acts of everyday resistance to law. We argue that the boundaries between legal and illegal, in the discourses and practices of those who sought actors to challenge the state, were shifting and uncertain. In turn, we revisit ‘illegality’, characterizing it as an assemblage of varying selectively-performed political practices, shaped by complex choreographies of negotiation between state and non-state actors.
  • Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. (2014). International Law, Public Health, and the Meanings of Pharmaceuticalization. New Genetics and Society [Online] 33:434-449. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14636778.2014.951994.
    Recent social science scholarship has employed the term “pharmaceuticalization” in analyses of the production, circulation and use of drugs. In this paper, we seek to open up further discussion of the scope, limits and potential of this as an analytical device through consideration of the role of law and legal processes in directing pharmaceutical flows. To do so, we synthesize a range of empirical and conceptual work concerned with the relationships between access to medicines and intellectual property law. This paper suggests that alongside documenting the expansion or reduction in demand for particular drugs, analysts of pharmaceuticalization attend to the ways in which socio-legal developments change (or not) the identities of drugs, and the means through which they circulate and come to be used by states and citizens. Such scholarship has the potential to more precisely locate the biopolitical processes that shape international agendas and targets, form markets, and produce health.
  • Cloatre, E. and Dingwall, R. (2013). 'Embedded Regulation': The Migration of Objects, Scripts and Governance. Regulation and Governance [Online]. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1748-5991.2012.01152.x.
    This paper asks why an officially unregulated market in pharmaceuticals in a least developed country, Djibouti, behaves as if it were strictly regulated, with limited access to a small number of high-cost drugs. We use Actor-Network Theory (ANT) to show that the explanation is more complex than critics of the international pharmaceutical industry have supposed. Regulation and property rights generated in developed countries have become embedded in the drugs and “black boxed” to the point of invisibility. This has allowed them to travel to Djibouti with the drugs, while maintaining their effects in action. This case study develops our understanding of the way in which materials that are not designated as regulatory agents may still have regulatory impacts through their ability to enrol complex networks of actors, rules, values, and practices. Finally, it argues against the notion of law as a fixed and distinctive space for action, as opposed to the ANT vision of a fluid and contingent order, where law is part of a socio-technico-legal alliance that happens to achieve certain effects.
  • Rooke, C., Cloatre, E. and Dingwall, R. (2012). Actor-Network Theory and the regulatory governance of nicotine in the United Kingdom: how nicotine gum came to be a medicine, but not a drug. Journal of Law and Society [Online] 39:39-57. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2012.00569.x.
    This article explores the utility of actor-network theory (ANT) as a tool for socio-legal research. ANT is deployed in a study of the evolution of divided regulatory responsibility for tobacco and medicinal nicotine (MN) products in the United Kingdom, with a particular focus on how the latter came to be regulated as a medicine. We examine the regulatory decisions taken in the United Kingdom in respect of the first MN product: a nicotine-containing gum developed in Sweden, which became available in the United Kingdom in 1980 as a prescription-only medicine under the Medicines Act 1968. We propose that utilizing ANT to explore the development of nicotine gum and the regulatory decisions taken about it places these decisions into the wider context of ideas about tobacco control and addiction, and helps us to understand better how different material actors acted in different networks, leading to very different systems of regulation.
  • Cloatre, E. and Wright, N. (2012). A Socio-legal Analysis of an Actor-world: the Case of Carbon Trading and the Clean Development Mechanism. Journal of Law and Society [Online] 39:76-92. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-6478.2012.00571.x.
    This article reviews the Kyoto Protocol's Clean Development Mechanism (CDM), and analyses how it reflects a particular international vision of climate change and its solutions. It discusses how the expectations this approach embeds have become challenged by practice, and practitioners, and how alternative models for the CDM have been put forward. The article argues that these challenges and alternatives can be understood better by borrowing Michel Callon's concept of ‘actor-world’, in order to analyse how contrasting visions of technologies also inevitably entail conflicting ideas about the world.
  • Cloatre, E. (2008). TRIPS and Pharamaceutical Patents in Djibouti: An ANT Analysis of Socio-Legal Objects. Social and Legal Studies 17:263-281.
  • Cloatre, E. (2008). Brevets pharmaceutiques occidentaux et accès aux médicaments dans les pays pauvres : le cas de Djibouti face au droit international de la propriété intellectuelle. Sciences Sociales et Santé 26:51-70.
  • Cloatre, E. and Dingwall, R. (2006). Vanishing Trials? An English Perspective. Journal of Dispute Resolution [Online] 2006:51-70. Available at: http://scholarship.law.missouri.edu/jdr/vol2006/iss1/7.
    This paper reviews the recent history of civil litigation in England and Wales. While previous work, by Kritzer , has shown an absolute decline in trials over the last fifty years, with some fluctuation around this trend, we suggest that this may now have bottomed out. Given the evidence of a simultaneous, and continuing, decline in the number of claims filed, it may even be the case that trials are, at least temporarily, playing a larger part in the civil justice system than they have for many years. In contrast to the US experience, these changes seem to be intended, and unintended, consequences of deliberate policy decisions by government and senior judges, which have changed the options and incentives for other stakeholders. As such, it is important to be cautious about the extent to which comparable trends in countries with comparable common law jurisdictions have comparable explanations. In particular, we shall argue that the English experience should not be seen as a simple indicator of the ?Americanization? of English law or English disputing culture. Nevertheless, Galanter?s concern for the wider social implications of a declining trial rate also has relevance to the UK and its jurisdictions.
  • Cloatre, E. (2006). From International Ethics to European Union Policy: A Case Study on Biopiracy in the EU's Biotechnology Directive. Law and Policy 28:345-367.


  • Cloatre, E. (2013). Pills for the Poorest: an Exploration of TRIPS and Access to Medication in sub-Saharan Africa. [Online]. Palgrave MacMillan. Available at: http://www.palgrave.com/products/title.aspx?pid=476228.
    This important study examines the impact of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) on public health in sub-Saharan Africa by reference to empirical research conducted in Djibouti and Ghana. With its use of Actor-Network Theory (ANT), this work makes a significant contribution to socio-legal research.

Book section

  • Cloatre, E. (2018). Traditional medicines, law, and the (dis)ordering of temporalities. in: Beynon-Jones, S. and Grabham, E. eds. Law and Time. Routledge.
    In this chapter, I explore the regulation of alternative and traditional medicine, in
    order to reflect on how particular temporalities shape, and are shaped by, the
    interface between law and medicine. This chapter makes two key points: first, it
    argues that both biomedicine and law have relied on a particular sense of
    ‘modernity’ as a linear temporal process; in turn, this has been key in developing
    both crude, and more subtle, social patterns of power, dominance, and exclusion
    that continue to impact on contemporary societies. Second, it argues that as law
    increasingly engages in the regulation of other types of medicine, it continues to
    emulate biomedical models and assumptions as to what ‘modern medicine’
    should look like, including its temporal features.
  • Cloatre, E. and Cowan, D. (2018). Legalities and Materialities. in: Philipopoulos-Mihalopoulos, A. ed. Routledge Handbook for Law and Theory. Routledge.
    This chapter reflects on what materiality-inflected methodologies can bring to an anthropology of law, and to legal studies more generally. Its starting point is an increasing attention across the social sciences and humanities for objects, and thinking beyond the human. These have often, but not only, emerged from science and technology studies (STS), to which we pay particular attention. However, approaches to materiality have themselves become diversified, and their implications for law can similarly be read in multiple ways. At the same time, legal anthropology has helped to re-characterise the complexity of law as a field of social activity by paying attention to its meanings, for actors within as well as outside its own institutions; to its modes of action in practice, again within its explicitly designated spaces as well as its everyday; to its unexpected forms, patterns and directions; to its multiplicity and uncertainty. Approaches within a broadly defined ‘legal anthropology’ agenda have provided tools to move away from grand and removed theorisation of the law, or an exclusive attention to its own claims, and towards a subtler understanding of law as a relatively fluid, changing and uncertain set of practices. While doing so, legal anthropology has also reminded us of the significance of empirical research to identify and theorise the complex existences of law, a contribution which echoes some of the implications of materiality-oriented theories.
  • Cloatre, E. (2017). Actor-network Theory and the Empirical Critique of Environmental Law: Unpacking the Bioprospecting Debates. in: Brooks, V. and Philipopoulos-Mihalopoulos, A. eds. Research Methods in Environmental Law : A Handbook. Edward Elgar, pp. 80-104.
  • Cloatre, E. and Enright, M. (2017). McGee v Attorney General. in: Enright, M., McCandless, J. and O’Donoghue, A. eds. Northern / Irish Feminist Judgments: Judges' Troubles and the Gendered Politics of Identity. Oxford: Hart Publishing.
  • Cloatre, E. (2016). Biodiversity, knowledge and the making of rights: : reviewing the debates on bioprospecting and ownership. in: Bowman, M., Davies, P. and Goodwin, E. eds. Research Handbook on Biodiversity & Law. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar, pp. 361-386.
  • Cloatre, E. (2015). Shifting labels and the fluidity of the ‘legal’. in: Cowan, D. and Wincott, D. eds. Exploring the legal in socio-legal studies. London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 97-115.
  • Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. (2014). Introduction. in: Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. eds. Knowledge, Technology and Law. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 1-15.

Edited book

  • Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. (2014). Knowledge, Technology and Law: At the Intersection of Socio-Legal and Science & Technology Studies. Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. eds. Routledge.
    Knowledge, Technology and Law examines the interface between studies of law, science and society, from the perspectives of socio-legal studies and science and technology studies (STS). The relationships between law, science and society are central to a diverse range of practical, ethical and theoretical issues. With an increasing emphasis on the fluidity and uncertainty of each of these areas, the analysis of their intersection(s) has become complex. Accordingly, scholars have borrowed from a range of disciplines and case studies to analyse not only how such intersections materialize, but also how and from where they should be approached. Notably, STS has provided a basis to explore the links between science and society, and socio-legal studies has offered many tools to understand the relationships between law and society. In recent years, a growing number of scholars have borrowed from both fields in order to further their efforts to understand the interconnectedness of law, science and society. This collection charts the important interface between studies of law, science and society, as explored from the perspectives of socio-legal studies and the increasingly influential field of STS. It brings together scholars from both areas to interrogate the joint roles of law and science in the construction and stabilization of socio-technical networks, objects, and standards, as well as their place in the production of contemporary social realities and subjectivities.

Internet publication

  • Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. (2014). Think-Tanks and the Governance of Science [Medical Humanities Blog guest post]. Available at: http://centreformedicalhumanities.org/think-tanks-and-the-governance-of-science-guest-post-by-martyn-pickersgill-emilie-cloatre/.
  • Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. (2014). Leaving your brain to science [AHRC Science in Culture Blog Post]. Available at: http://www.sciculture.ac.uk/2014/05/19/leaving-your-brain-to-science-2/.
  • Cloatre, E. and Pickersgill, M. (2013). The material life of science and law [AHRC Science in Culture Blog guest post]. Available at: http://www.sciculture.ac.uk/2013/12/09/1085/.


  • Cloatre, E. (2016). Book review: Sociological Reflections on the Neurosciences. Medical Law International [Online] 16:252-258. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/0968533216673448.
  • Cloatre, E. (2014). Kristin Peterson’s Speculative Markets. Somatosphere [Online]:1. Available at: http://somatosphere.net/2014/11/speculative-markets.html.
  • Cloatre, E. (2014). Review: Matching Organs with Donors. Social and Legal Studies [Online] 23:131-134. Available at: http://www.dx.doi.org/10.1177/0964663913514504.
  • Cloatre, E. (2013). Book Review: Reframing Rights. Medical Law Review [Online] 21:165-170. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/medlaw/fws043.
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