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Vulnerability and the Politics of CareTransdisciplinary Dialogues$
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Victoria Browne, Jason Danely, and Doerthe Rosenow

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266830

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266830.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 18 September 2021

The Problems and Potentials of Vulnerability

The Problems and Potentials of Vulnerability

(p.85) 4 The Problems and Potentials of Vulnerability
Vulnerability and the Politics of Care

Erinn Gilson

British Academy

The discourse on vulnerability has been beset by criticism. This chapter argues that the account of vulnerability best suited to address these problems is one that places the ambiguities of the concept at its center. Foregrounding vulnerability’s ambiguity makes it possible both to do justice to the complexity and diversity of experiences of vulnerability, and to provide a sufficiently theoretically complex and nuanced concept. The chapter focuses on three aspects of vulnerability in order to respond to this criticism: the attribution of commonness to vulnerability and the contrast between a universal, ontological notion of vulnerability and a situational one; vulnerability’s connection to affect; and vulnerability’s relationship to social identity, inequality, and oppression. In the final section, the claim that understanding vulnerability as ambiguous best captures its simultaneously political and ethical salience is applied through analysis of two recent assertions of vulnerability in US immigration politics.

Keywords:   ambiguity, ethics, oppression, politics, vulnerability, universality

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