This post by Ynestra King is part of a series of reflections on the 37th annual Scholar & Feminist conference, held March 3rd, 2012 at Barnard College. This year’s theme was “Vulnerability: the Human and the Humanities.”
What I was most struck by at this conference is the complexity of vulnerability from the perspective of disability, and how important it is that the voices of women with disabilities inform this conversation.
In the opening panel on Theorizing Vulnerability Studies, Martha Fineman, founder of the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative at Emory University, spoke on the concept of the vulnerable subject. She offers a theoretical project of radical “deothering” that rests on a critique of the autonomous liberal subject as the human standard, arguing that this standard is both impossible and dangerous. Impossible because we are all embodied beings, fragile and mortal; dangerous because our social and political institutions treat our vulnerability as an exceptional state or even a personal failing.
Not explicitly addressed here is shame – the feeling that usually accompanies an awareness of one’s need for help, or in the vernacular of the conference, “care”. Continue reading