From pity to fear: security as a mechanism for (re)production of vulnerability
Vulnerability is not only a shared basic condition, but also a condition of potential. In the context of disasters and crises, the concept of vulnerability is frequently used to portray individuals and groups as ‘weak’, ‘threatened’, and ‘in need of help’. Occasionally, though, a shift occurs and the ‘threatened’—and therefore usually the pitied—become those who are feared and hated, that is, they become a ‘threat’. This paper explores how apparently incompatible discursive regimes of ‘threatened’ and ‘threat’ intertwine, merge, and feed upon each other, and how vulnerability can be and is consequently securitised. It demonstrates that too often the freedoms and opportunities prescribed by the neoliberal state are impossible to actualise when ‘normality’ and hence ‘otherness’ are also defined by the state, where people are first and foremost subjects of a global market. These considerations are critical if we are truly to reduce vulnerabilisation by focusing on justice.
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