Vulnerability Politics: The Uses and Abuses of Precarity in Political Debate

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Women's and Gender Studies




Progressive thinkers have argued that placing the concept of vulnerability at the center of discussions about social justice would lead governments to more equitably distribute resources and create opportunities for precarious groups – especially women, children, people of color, queers, immigrants and the poor. At the same time, conservatives claim that their values and communities are vulnerable to attack–often by these same groups. In turn, they craft antidemocratic representations of vulnerability that significantly influence the political landscape, restricting human and legal rights for many in order to expand them for a historically privileged few.
Vulnerability Politics examines how twenty-first century political struggles over immigration, LGBTQ rights, reproductive justice, and police violence have created a sense of vulnerability that has an impact on culture and the law. By researching organizations like the Minutemen (civilians who monitor the US/Mexico border), the Protect Marriage Coalition (a campaign to ban same-sex marriage in California), and the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform (an anti-abortion movement), Katie Oliviero shows how conservative movements use the rhetoric of risk to oppose liberal policies by claiming that the nation, family, and morality are imperiled and in need of government protection.
The author argues that this sensationalism has shifted the focus away from the everyday and institutional precarities experienced by marginalized communities and instead reinforces the idea that groups only deserve social justice protections when their beliefs reflect the dominant nationalist, racial, and sexual ideals.


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