In this article, we argue that the relationship between ‘subject’ and ‘object’ is poorly understood in health research regulation (HRR), and that it is a fallacy to suppose that they can operate in separate, fixed silos. By seeking to perpetuate this fallacy, HRR risks, among other things, objectifying persons by paying insufficient attention to human subjectivity, and the experiences and interests related to being involved in research. We deploy the anthropological concept of liminality – concerned with processes of transformation and change over time – to emphasise the enduring connectedness between subject and object in these contexts. By these means, we posit that regulatory frameworks based on processual regulation can better recognise and encompass the fluidity and significance of these relationships, and so ground more securely the moral legitimacy and social licence for human health research.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-222
JournalLaw, Innovation and Technology
Issue number1
Early online date18 Mar 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 18 Mar 2021


  • subject
  • object
  • health research
  • liminality
  • health data


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