Vulnerability and its politicsPrecarity and the woundedness of power

Authors Organisations
Type Article
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
JournalProgress in Human Geography
Issue numberN/A
Early online date24 Nov 2020
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 24 Nov 2020
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This paper is an attempt to unwrite our current disciplinary enamourment with power. We do so by paying close attention to how the concepts of precarity and vulnerability have been framed in contemporary geographic debates. Because this work approaches precarity primarily as a tool, a by-product or as an apparatus of power – that is, as something that power wields, manufactures or affects through various political compilations – we feel that the pivotal role that vulnerability plays in the constitution of power has not only been lost, but utterly misapprehended. In contrast, we argue that precarity marks our woundedness to life, that is, it illuminates a situation of existential vulnerability which both precedes power (i.e., power would not exist if bodies were not already fundamentally vulnerable) and exceeds power (no power can ever secure or resolve the problem that our woundedness poses). To illustrate this, we introduce ‘the politics of the wound’: a perspective on politics that begins, not from a pre-existing ontology of forces and relations, but from the condition of being incurably wounded, that is, of being vulnerable and exposed from the very beginning. Such politics concerns how living beings strive, in infinitely generous and yet always already fragile ways, to claim sovereignty over their own lives, and those of others, in the face of ever-exposing vulnerability – the wound of being a living being.


  • vulnerability, precariousness, precarity, power, response, politics, wound