Vulnerability as a political language

Anu Koivunen, Katariina Kyrölä, Ingrid Ryberg

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review

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This introductory chapter introduces the main questions addressed in the book The Power of Vulnerability, and thoroughly accounts for the concept of vulnerability, its various theoretical legacies and uses in feminist, anti-racist and queer scholarship, and key role in present day discussions about power, agency, and the media. Vulnerability is addressed both as a concept and as a political language. The authors highlight four aspects of how this language operates: as a human rights discourse, as a language easily appropriated by dominant groups, as a contested language invoking long-running debates in queer, feminist, and anti-racist media cultures, and as a language translated into cultural policymaking. The #MeToo and #BlackLivesMatter campaigns exemplify how the public articulation of experiences of injury, trauma, and hurt can turn into powerful movements. However, in neo-liberal media culture, vulnerability operates as a political language not only for disadvantaged, but also for privileged groups. Claims of vulnerability can translate to claims to agency and voice, but these claims can have completely oppositional political consequences, depending on who is making them. Drawing from Lauren Berlant and Judith Butler, the chapter sheds light on this and other paradoxes that the concept of vulnerability evokes, and asks: what does the language of vulnerability do?

Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Title of host publicationThe Power of Vulnerability. Mobilising affect in feminist, queer and anti-racist media cultures.
EditorsAnu Koivunen, Katariina Kyrölä, Ingrid Ryberg
PublisherManchester University Press
ISBN (Print)978-1-5261-3309-0
Publication statusPublished - 2018
MoE publication typeA3 Part of a book or another research book

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