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

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

by Katie Oliviero


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A new understanding of vulnerability in contemporary political culture

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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781479847822
Publisher: New York University Press
Publication date: 08/14/2018
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Katie Oliviero is Assistant Professor of Women’s,
Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Dickinson College.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Vulnerability in American Political Discourse 1

1 Transformative Activism: Progressive Politics, Social Justice, and Democratic Practice 23

2 The Vulnerable Nation: Citizens' Construction of Risk in Anti-Immigration Activism and Policy 52

3 Vulnerable Families: Morality and Race in Same-Sex Marriage Opposition 108

4 Visualizing Precarity in Twenty-First-Century Antiabortion Debates 167

5 Political Action in an Ambivalent State 228

Conclusion: The Black Lives Matter Movement and Vulnerability's Ambivalent Political Life 263

Acknowledgments 285

Notes 289

Works Cited 295

Index 325

About the Author 343

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