Date of publication
10.6. 2021.
Translated by
Krešimira Polegubić
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How to cre­ate a space for reflect­ing and/​or tak­ing a crit­ic­al stand­point with­in the “time phantom,” a phrase bor­rowed from Ivana Sajko,1Sajko, Ivana. “Nijemo preživl­javan­je” [“Silent Survival”]. Frakcija, magazin za izved­bene umjet­nosti, vol. 5, 1997, pp. 76 – 77. which eer­ily hov­ers over our lives, suck­ing up the vital­ity of pos­sible choices?  Is a text on the “corona situ­ation” just a min­im­al ges­ture of cour­age, a mark of the pos­i­tion or ini­ti­ation into a “new uncer­tainty” that only under­scores that what hyper­real­ity and its omni­pres­ence in media attests to every day, that being life without a tem­plate, a future without a tem­plate and/​or a sign­post? Is this pub­lish­able col­lab­or­at­ive voice, I won­der, noth­ing more than a mere link for engage­ment in con­ver­sa­tion in order to allow, even for just a moment, the illu­sion of joint re-​subjectivisation because the exper­i­ence of voice as described by Mladen Dolar2Dolar, Mladen. Glas i ništa više [A Voice and Nothing More]. Translated by Anera Ryznar, Disput, 2009. deeply affects the man­ner in which we gen­er­ally act as sub­jects, or is this an attempt to cla­ri­fy some of the accu­mu­lated anxi­et­ies? This is not appar­ent at first glance.

The moment of pub­lish­ing this art­icle at a time of a sharp increase in the num­ber of coronavir­us infec­tions in Croatia and the world already had a con­crete (ten-​month) past pre­ced­ing it, and records on the num­ber of deaths and infec­tions go in step with new, rig­or­ous beha­viours at both micro- and macro-​levels. Globally, the num­ber of deaths from COVID-​19 has exceeded one mil­lion one hun­dred thou­sand, but experts are still try­ing to under­stand the mor­tal­ity rate, the key meas­ure of a pan­dem­ic, spe­cific­ally the per­cent­age of people infec­ted with the patho­gen who die from the dis­ease and its implications.

The incredu­lity of each of us by the new data pro­cessed with­in the per­son­al fram­ing of resi­li­ence in dif­fer­ent spaces, from private ones which isol­a­tion and self-​isolation fill with unpre­dict­able mean­ings to pub­lic ones which are con­tam­in­ated by numer­ous instruc­tions or pro­hib­i­tions that dic­tate the pat­terns of beha­viour and places of exclusion/​inclusion, only intensi­fy­ing dis­com­fort, forms the cur­rent pro­vi­sion­al life. Everyday change as an amp­li­fi­er of uncer­tainty, data muta­tion, vir­us muta­tion, hav­ing little or no know­ledge of the cor­rel­a­tion between genet­ic self-​destruction of the vir­us and the human immune sys­tem with­in the pop­u­la­tion, fuels intern­al mech­an­isms of human receptiv­ity to the indis­put­ab­il­ity of author­ity and its pro­fes­sion­al order. Our tacit adher­ence to obed­i­ence, par­tic­u­larly the obed­i­ence required by the “corona situ­ation,” and the absence of a dif­fer­ent voice, that of an autonom­ous sub­ject, cit­izen, for a while cre­ated an illu­sion of coher­ence of us as a com­munity of human beings, based on the unques­tion­able faith in the valid­ity of the pro­fes­sion (med­ic­al sci­ence), but also on the pre­sumptive onto­lo­gic­al clasp that curls anxi­ety, fear, and pan­ic with prom­ise, hope, pos­sible solu­tion, and/​or deliv­er­ance. Consent to a vol­un­tary zone of sus­pen­sion that, func­tion­ing like a nat­ur­al­ised norm, occurred imme­di­ately upon the estab­lish­ment of pivotal insti­tu­tions of polit­ic­al and pro­fes­sion­al power, while the illu­sion of trust in the hypo­thet­ic­ally “pure” field of med­ic­al expert­ise wrapped in a per­form­at­ive of author­ity com­pletely faded over time.

The “corona situ­ation” not only pushed us to the edge of the abyss by intensi­fy­ing fears, insec­ur­it­ies, and anxi­ety but by sharpen­ing the crit­ic­al lenses through which we observe and per­ceive the world, it con­fron­ted us with a range of philo­soph­ic­al, exist­en­tial and eth­ic­al phe­nom­ena, doubts and ques­tions. Vulnerability is undoubtedly one of them. All the while, feel­ings of phys­ic­al vul­ner­ab­il­ity, phys­ic­al injury, emo­tion­al fra­gil­ity, and uncer­tainty at the indi­vidu­al level inter­twine with those at the soci­et­al level, trig­ger­ing vari­ous mod­al­it­ies of affect­ive intentionality.

Being in a locked time from February/​March to September 2020, I exper­i­enced many of these feel­ings, but what impacted me the most and occu­pied my atten­tion was explor­ing the lay­ers of human vul­ner­ab­il­ity caused by the pres­ence of the coronavir­us and its deci­pher­ing effects in cor­rel­a­tion with human rela­tions and with­in their net­works: How are vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies “activ­ated,” how are they dis­placed or sup­pressed with­in cer­tain situ­ations, what ini­ti­ates them, how do we recog­nise them, what do they sig­nal, what trans­form­a­tion or destabil­isa­tion of known sig­ni­fi­ers is in ques­tion, what eludes us in observation?


How can vul­ner­ab­il­ity even be defined?

Before turn­ing to the ques­tion of its defin­i­tion, an import­ant ques­tion to ask is: What is the con­tex­tu­al, soci­et­al, and geo­pol­it­ic­al time with­in which we talk about vul­ner­ab­il­ity, the vul­ner­ab­il­ity of the human being as a sub­ject, the vul­ner­ab­il­ity of the human com­munity as a sub­ject, soci­ety as a subject?

Rosi Braidotti, a fem­in­ist the­or­ist and philo­soph­er, in “A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities”3Braidotti, Rosi. “A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities.” Theory, Culture & Society, vol. 36, no. 6, 4 May 2019, pp. 31 – 61. SAGE Journals, Accessed 28 Aug. 2020. speaks of the posthu­man era, more spe­cific­ally of a time that on the trail of the Guattarian the­or­et­ic­al matrices char­ac­ter­ises the Anthropocene “as a multi-​layered posthu­man pre­dic­a­ment that includes the envir­on­ment­al, socio-​economic, and affect­ive and psych­ic dimen­sions of our eco­lo­gies of belong­ing,”4Braidotti, Rosi. “A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities.” Ibid., p. 32. but also the power of car­to­graph­ies as a con­cep­tu­al off-​shoot of neo-​materialism. On the one hand, in the neo-​materialist real­ity, accord­ing to her find­ings, the exchanges of dif­fer­ent act­ors, includ­ing non-​human [inhu­man] act­ors and tech­no­lo­gic­al media, occur in accel­er­at­ing rhythm, while on the oth­er hand, the inter­pret­a­tion of the influ­ence of com­plex pro­cesses on the form­a­tion of subject(s) and their inter­de­pend­ence requires a dif­fer­ent approach to what is human(ity) [human(ness)] and what is present. While the para­dox of the human [humane] on the occur­rence level is read in the sim­ul­tan­eous over­ex­pos­ure and dis­ap­pear­ance of what human(ity) [human(ness)] is, the para­dox of the lat­ter con­cerns the fact that the power of the present nev­er com­pletely coin­cides with that which is here and now. Such syn­chron­isa­tion is nev­er com­plete because “in a neo-​materialist vital sys­tem, all human and non-​human entit­ies are nomad­ic subjects-​in-​process, in per­petu­al motion,”5Braidotti, Rosi. “A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities.” Ibid., p. 32. which is imman­ent to the vital­ity of the self-​regulating order. The ref­er­ence point of Braidotti’s ana­lys­is thus becomes the world in all its open­ing, infin­ite, inter­de­pend­ent, transna­tion­al, multi­sexu­al, trans-​species, and tran­scend­ent streams of becom­ing. It should be noted that nomad­ic sub­jects, or “becoming-​subjects,” is a phrase that Braidotti the­or­et­ic­ally elab­or­ated back in 1994 in her book Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory.6Braidotti, Rosi. Nomadic Subjects: Embodiment and Sexual Difference in Contemporary Feminist Theory. Columbia University Press, 1994. Not only is it, there­fore, dif­fi­cult to grasp the end of what is “now” in the present time, but we are already facing this prob­lem with­in the cre­at­ive actu­al­isa­tion of the vir­tu­al, and this “inter­play between the present as actu­al and the present as vir­tu­al spells the rhythms of sub­ject form­a­tion.”7Braidotti, Rosi. “A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities.” Ibid., p. 37.

If, on the basis of the crit­ic­al posthu­man the­ory advoc­ated by the author, one speaks crit­ic­ally about vul­ner­able cos­mo­pol­it­an­ism or the abstract pan-​humanism, which in its new, conservative-​religious form responds to a pos­sible apo­ca­lyptic scen­ario of the human future with: “We are in this togeth­er!”8Braidotti, Rosi. “A Theoretical Framework for the Critical Posthumanities.” Ibid., p.36. When step­ping out of the humanistic-​anthropocentric pos­i­tion, one should again ask: “Who are we?” Who are we, whose uni­ver­sal human­ity in the last cen­tury has been unmasked from sev­er­al view­points (feminist/​post-​colonial/​ecological/​ethical)? Who are we, who unscru­pu­lously sub­jug­ate oth­er liv­ing spe­cies along the hierarchical-​exploitative axis? Who are we, who, des­pite exper­i­en­tial dif­fer­ences (socio-​spatial, class, gender), have been “united” for sev­er­al months around a com­mon vul­ner­able status? Agreeing all the while to dis­pos­ses­sion and (self-)supervision, to going along with indul­gence towards the dir­ect­ive instruc­tions of state, polit­ic­al, and/​or medical-​professional bod­ies, to the clam­our of wired hege­mon­ic dis­course of the hybrid com­bin­a­tion of pro­fes­sion and polit­ics. Is this just an exist­en­tial fear con­di­tioned by a com­mon extern­al, hov­er­ing threat, or is it a fun­da­ment­al help­less­ness that seeks new uni­ver­sal hid­ing places? Or? There are so many ques­tions and indi­vidu­al worries.

Nevertheless, it is quite clear that rad­ic­al forms of self-​sufficiency have been com­pletely shaken; the pat­terns of com­pre­hens­ib­il­ity reduced to neces­sary instruc­tions and cov­ert pro­tect­ive mech­an­isms while COVID-​19, this new strain of vir­us whose ori­gin has not been pre­cisely determ­ined, a mutat­ing vir­us on the bor­der of inan­im­ate nature and the liv­ing world, firmly holds us togeth­er in its pan­dem­ic expansion.

How to define vul­ner­ab­il­ity, which dis­cus­sions are tak­ing place, and what are the con­tro­ver­sies? Even though it is a concept that res­ists clear defin­i­tion, vul­ner­ab­il­ity in the philo­soph­ic­al sense (J. E. Hackett, 2020)9Hackett, J. Edward. “Three Philosophical Types of Vulnerability.” The Horizon and the Fringe, 1 June 2018, Accessed 10 Sep. 2020. is a basic pre­con­di­tion of our mor­al exper­i­ence since it includes the indi­vidu­al as a liv­ing body and his/​her pos­i­tion­ing in rela­tion to the val­ues inten­ded by its affect­ive inten­tion­al­ity. But one can­not over­look the fact that our weak­ness and fra­gil­ity arise from inter­de­pend­ence (Engster, 2019;10Engster, Daniel. “Care Ethics, Dependency, and Vulnerability.” Ethics and Social Welfare, vol. 13, no. 2, 2019, pp. 100 – 114. Nussbaum, 200411Nussbaum, Martha. Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. Harvard University Press, 2006.; Nussbaum Martha. “Beyond the Social Contract: Capabilities and Global Justice.” Oxford Development Studies, vol. 32, no. 1, 2004, pp. 3 – 18.) and of our social and inter­me­di­ate touches, cul­tur­al con­nec­tions, situ­ation­al and con­tex­tu­al facts, and changes. Aware of the dif­fer­ent spaces of our vul­ner­ab­il­ity, philo­soph­er J. Edward Hackett12Hackett, J. Edward. Ibid. speaks of three types of vul­ner­ab­il­ity that can be observed with­in a mul­ti­level sequence: a) bod­ily; b) vul­ner­ab­il­ity caused by intraper­son­al rela­tion­ships with oth­ers at the cul­tur­al and insti­tu­tion­al level; and c) nihil­ist­ic vul­ner­ab­il­ity which occurs at the highest level of spir­itu­al feel­ings (wheth­er reli­gious or sec­u­lar) and is asso­ci­ated with the highest level of suf­fer­ing. The first two types of vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies are import­ant for this reflec­tion. While bod­ily vul­ner­ab­il­ity sup­ports the vital feel­ings and val­ues of an indi­vidu­al, the second-​level vul­ner­ab­il­ity, which he calls fra­gil­ity, is deeply onto­lo­gic­al. Occurring in the space of inter­sub­jectiv­ity and inter­de­pend­ency, in con­nec­tion with the effects of social inter­ac­tions, it also leads to deper­son­al­isa­tion and new per­son­al­isa­tion, and by expos­ing the mor­al sys­tems we inter­n­al­ise, it is sub­ject to mor­al judgments.

Vulnerability has sig­ni­fic­ant implic­a­tions for the ways we judge ourselves and oth­ers. I won­der in what dir­ec­tion this is hap­pen­ing today, and if we have moved from a tem­por­ary situ­ation of tacit mutu­al “silence” in the sub­text that the net­work of mutu­al care was built, and, after a few months, entered a zone of dis­turbed advert­ising, affect­ive respons­ive­ness, uncon­trol­lab­il­ity, deviation?


Within a situ­ation of silence and a kind of shock­ing con­ceal­ment in front of an invis­ible com­mon “enemy”13Placing the vir­us in the fig­ure of an “enemy” is prob­lem­at­ic for sev­er­al reas­ons, espe­cially since it strikes the hori­zon of anthro­po­centrism, but that is not the sub­ject of this text. in the first months, some­thing began to devel­op which con­nec­ted all of us. More pre­cisely, it is as if by way of and through vul­ner­able bod­ies or bod­ies ready for a sim­il­ar out­come around a pos­sible infec­tion, a type of unusu­al corporal-​sensory unity, or intern­al “alli­ance in trouble,” a recog­ni­tion of an unknown but threat­en­ing exper­i­ence, began to form. It is this exper­i­ence of embod­i­ment, both indi­vidu­al and col­lect­ive, that sup­ports the view that sub­jectiv­ity can­not be thought of “as exist­ing in a vacu­um, un-​situated, nor as exist­ing in isol­a­tion from the body”14Parkins, Wendy. “Protesting like a Girl: Embodiment, Dissent and Feminist Agency.” Feminist Theory, vol. 1, no. 1, 2000, pp. 59 – 78, p. 62. or sep­ar­ate from inten­tion­al­ity which is per­ceived by Merleau-​Ponty as the “abil­ity of the body to dir­ect itself towards, estab­lish link­ages with or act and loc­ate itself in rela­tion to a world.”15Parkins, Wendy. Ibid., p. 62; See: Merleau-​Ponty, Maurice. The Phenomenology of Perception. Routledge, 1962.

The coronavir­us, in the newly estab­lished limbo of exteriority/​interiority, returns us to the mater­i­al status of our body, that decept­ive subject-​object, the one without an impli­cit secure basis, pro­tec­tion or con­scious­ness, but at the same time cru­cial for self-​sustainability. Living one’s body in the format of neces­sary self-​preservation and sur­viv­al to pro­tect it from anoth­er, pos­sibly threat­en­ing body, along with “voyeur­ist­ic” obser­va­tion and listen­ing to its con­crete “des­tiny” tied to the plur­al cor­por­eal­ity with­in the pur­por­ted human zone of move­ment (alive/​living/​surviving/​still alive/​non-​living), is not only an anxious but an eth­ic­ally impossible require­ment. Because the for­cibly learned self-​control of our indi­vidu­al bod­ies to which we had to adapt in a sud­den rush is, in essence, the con­trol of vul­ner­able and already wounded bod­ies, restrained with their vul­ner­ab­il­ity, bod­ies that spill over each oth­er in every (post-)traumatic situ­ation, and thus decept­ive and temporary.

Does this mean that the coronavir­us has evoked intim­acy among humans on a com­pletely dif­fer­ent (physical-​sensory, e.g.) level, or levels irre­spect­ive of “social dis­tance,” that unsuit­able func­tion­al vari­ant? And how else to inter­pret that “voyeur­ist­ic” con­nec­tion, that con­tinu­ous co-​existence of human beings through deper­son­al­ised and dehu­man­ised ori­ent­a­tion stat­ist­ics regard­ing the glob­al “corona situ­ation” (one such example is the Worldometer COVID-​19 web­site) which strain our impulses daily by dis­cip­lin­ing our bod­ily anchors, stifling the mobil­ity of our bod­ies, increas­ingly cre­at­ing a space of unbear­able com­mon intim­acy. It is this syn­tagm that indic­ates the ambi­gu­ity of such close­ness because we are made accom­plices and cap­tives against our will in a human crater with an uncertain-​predictive scen­ario, and sim­ul­tan­eously demon­strates the aver­sion towards such pub­lic human generalisation.

Why do we think that we should unques­tion­ingly cling to the offi­cial “ideo­logy” of the med­ic­al nar­rat­ive and the sys­tem which sup­ports it? What are the places of insec­ur­ity that keep us bound to such a col­lect­ive phys­ic­al­ity or to the ter­ror of intim­acy with anoth­er, for­eign body, for­eign bod­ies? The bod­ily alli­ance in pub­lic dis­course thus appears not only as a sign of their (in)visibility with­in the con­tem­por­ary pan­dem­ic apo­ca­lypse or a vague register of their bod­ily life and non-​realisation through the vec­tors of bio­med­ic­al power and its pact with polit­ics, but it also cor­rel­ates to pro­jec­tions of the uncer­tain, vul­ner­able and/​or vul­ner­able life in the future, and which speak from the sub­ject of an unfathom­able place.

If we over­look the com­plex residue of incon­ceiv­able uncer­tainty of the future, the first thing we can ask ourselves is: Is there a pos­sib­il­ity of some autonom­ous choice or sub­ver­sion with­in this newly encoded intim­acy, or is there room with­in pub­lic dis­course for Derrida’s “inner for­um,” a place that, in spite of an extern­al com­mon threat, refuses to listen, refuses to relate to it? Are we invited to speak?


What has increas­ingly been of interest to vul­ner­ab­il­ity the­or­ists since the mid-​1980s is the con­stitutive vul­ner­ab­il­ity and oper­ab­il­ity of this concept in the social con­text and the extent to which vul­ner­ab­il­ity policy is import­ant in address­ing the prob­lems of those who exper­i­ence dif­fer­ent types of vul­ner­ab­il­ity. In the art­icle entitled “All of Us Are Vulnerable, But Some Are More Vulnerable than Others: The Political Ambiguity of Vulnerability Studies, an Ambivalent Critique,” Alyson Cole16Cole, Alyson. “All of Us Are Vulnerable, But Some Are More Vulnerable than Others: The Political Ambiguity of Vulnerability Studies, an Ambivalent Critique.” Critical Horizons, A Journal of Philosophy and Social Theory, vol. 17, no. 2, 2 June 2016, pp. 260 – 277. Taylor and Francis Online, Accessed 20 Aug. 2020. argues that vul­ner­ab­il­ity is often a type of metalan­guage serving to con­cep­tu­al­ise injustice in the world and politi­cise the injur­ies it impreg­nates or encour­ages. Recognising the con­stitutive vul­ner­ab­il­ity of us as human beings helps to artic­u­late con­crete injustices, although any gen­er­al­isa­tion of vul­ner­ab­il­ity, accord­ing to Cole, blurs the dis­tinc­tion between spe­cif­ic types and causes of vul­ner­ab­il­ity and between those who are vul­ner­able and those who are injured. Therefore, some the­or­ists define vul­ner­ab­il­ity as a term con­trary to vic­tim­isa­tion, espe­cially in rela­tion to neo­lib­er­al defin­i­tions of vic­tims and vic­tim­isa­tion. However, accord­ing to Cole’s inter­pret­a­tion, it is import­ant to not only con­sider the polit­ic­al ambi­gu­ity of vul­ner­ab­il­ity giv­en the con­trast between the onto­lo­gic­ally vul­ner­able and the injured along all axes but also to con­sider how vul­ner­ab­il­ity policy helps us to bet­ter under­stand whose vul­ner­ab­il­ity is at issue in par­tic­u­lar cir­cum­stances; wheth­er it is a vul­ner­ab­il­ity caused by neo­co­lo­ni­al viol­ence, new racial­isa­tion, sexual/​gender oppres­sion, or trauma related to a par­tic­u­lar dis­ease or infec­tion. It is clear that the mean­ing of spe­cif­ic vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies, along with lived exper­i­ence and con­tex­tu­al­ity, is import­ant in artic­u­lat­ing spe­cif­ic injustices.

The eth­ic­al argu­ments regard­ing vul­ner­ab­il­ity used as tem­plates by authors with­in philo­soph­ic­al and fem­in­ist debates and bio­med­ic­al eth­ics are the same as those stated above. For example, bey­ond the dis­cus­sion of the vul­ner­able nature of the indi­vidu­al, which in Western-​centric eth­ics is most often asso­ci­ated with the impos­i­tion of self-​sufficiency, the will to power, and/​or the ideal of autonomy, the key ques­tion affirmed by the eth­ics of vul­ner­ab­il­ity is what is the basis of mor­al respons­ib­il­ity to pro­tect vul­ner­able beings and how to estab­lish this respons­ib­il­ity which, acknow­ledging con­tex­tu­al­ity and inter­de­pend­ence, arises from the demands of justice? Adela Cortina and Jesús Conill,17Cortina, Adela and Conill, Jesús. “Ethics of Vulnerability.” Human Dignity of the Vulnerable in the Age of Rights: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Aniceto Masferrer and Emilio García-​Sánchez, Springer International Publishing, 2016, pp. 45 – 61. refer­ring to the views of Williams, Nagel, MacIntyre, and Nussbaum, respond to this ques­tion in the text “Ethics of Vulnerability” by dis­cuss­ing the eth­ics of care, eth­ics of respons­ib­il­ity, and eth­ics of cor­di­al reason.


These approaches to vul­ner­ab­il­ity sug­gest that it can only be inter­preted mul­ti­di­men­sion­ally and in con­nec­tion with vari­ous factors and aspects (social, psy­cho­lo­gic­al, eco­nom­ic, envir­on­ment­al, insti­tu­tion­al, among oth­ers) and in a dynam­ic code with respect to trans­form­a­tions over time and neces­sary con­tin­gen­cies.18Bankoff, Greg, et al. Mapping Vulnerability: Disasters, Development and People. Routledge, 2004. Even though there is no con­sensus among sci­ent­ists around the defin­i­tion of vul­ner­ab­il­ity, it is most com­monly asso­ci­ated with some psy­cho­lo­gic­al char­ac­ter­ist­ics of the indi­vidu­al such as anxi­ety, fear, uneas­i­ness, fra­gil­ity, help­less­ness, passiv­ity, emo­tion­al or social isol­a­tion, addic­tion; or with vari­ous situ­ations of social viol­a­tions, injustice, and cata­strophes (viol­ence, poverty, cli­mate cata­strophes, under­devel­op­ment, acci­dents, death situ­ations, e.g.); as well as with cer­tain social groups; denot­ing by this concept, above all, the entire spec­trum of neg­at­ive or lim­it­ing cir­cum­stances or con­di­tions import­ant for qual­ity human life. Two places in that respect attract atten­tion and are the sub­ject of crit­ic­al insights. Firstly, it is a cri­tique of des­ig­nat­ing cer­tain per­sons, or cer­tain social groups, as “vul­ner­able.” Some the­or­ists rightly point to the fact that by insist­ing on the dicho­tomy between vul­ner­able and invul­ner­able social groups, a very strict social hier­archy and divi­sion (gender, age, class, etc.) is pro­duced, and that these groups are labelled and ste­reo­typed by fix­ing social iden­tit­ies this way, wherein the cause of the prob­lem remains unre­cog­nised, and the pos­sib­il­ity of change pre­ven­ted. Moreover, this rein­forces vari­ous pater­nal­isms and con­trols (insti­tu­tion­al, polit­ic­al, medical-​expert, mas­cu­line, etc.) over groups that are labelled as “vul­ner­able.” Using the example of women’s vul­ner­ab­il­ity, or the vul­ner­ab­il­ity of women as a spe­cif­ic gender group, it has been shown that this type of pater­nal­isa­tion has been used through­out his­tory as an excuse, an institutional-​patriarchal cov­er for main­tain­ing sexual/​gender, racial, and eco­nom­ic viol­ence against women.19Cole, Alyson. Ibid.; Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review, vol. 43, no. 6, 1991, pp. 1241 – 1299, Accessed 5 June 2020; Nixon, Jennifer. “Domestic Violence and Women with Disabilities: Locating the Issue on the Periphery of Social Movements.” Disability & Society, vol. 24, no. 1, 2009, pp. 77 – 89, Accessed 8 Aug. 2020. Secondly, how to pub­licly address diversity with regard to spe­cif­ic exper­i­ences of vul­ner­ab­il­ity, being aware of the fact that the cir­cum­stances of vul­ner­ab­il­ity are uneven and lived exper­i­ences of viol­ence, trauma, ill­ness, or oppres­sion, as A. Cole20Cole, Alyson. Ibid. rightly notes, refer­ring to Sarah Ahmed, are often in the back­ground with­in Western nar­rat­ives and unevenly and unfairly distributed.

Florencia Luna, an Argentine philo­soph­er who spe­cial­ises in bioeth­ics, emphas­ises three assump­tions import­ant for under­stand­ing vul­ner­ab­il­ity: first, there are mul­tiple factors or sources of vul­ner­ab­il­ity; second, they are deeply related to the con­text; third, vul­ner­ab­il­ity is not the prop­erty of cer­tain research teams or a char­ac­ter­ist­ic of cer­tain groups per se, and in this sense, it is inap­pro­pri­ate to use this term21Luna, Florencia. “Identifying and eval­u­at­ing lay­ers of vul­ner­ab­il­ity – a way for­ward.” Developing World Bioethics, vol. 19, no. 2, 30 July 2019, pp. 86 – 95, p. 88. Wiley Online Library, Accessed 15 Aug. 2020. to denote or ste­reo­type cer­tain sub­pop­u­la­tion groups. In addi­tion to the fact that one per­son or a cer­tain social group may exper­i­ence dif­fer­ent types of vul­ner­ab­il­ity, a ser­i­ous prob­lem of this type of iden­ti­fic­a­tion (“vul­ner­able as vul­ner­able”) is the con­fin­ing of people to that pos­i­tion without the pos­sib­il­ity of pro­gress and con­sequently, the inab­il­ity to destabil­ise or trans­form exist­ing social rela­tions and divi­sions. Therefore, the author, revis­ing some of her ori­gin­al views on vul­ner­ab­il­ity, revises the very term that she pre­vi­ously used to denote vul­ner­ab­il­ity. Instead of the “meta­phor of labels,”22Luna, Florencia. “Elucidating the Concept of Vulnerability. Layers not Labels.” International Journal of Feminist Approaches of Bioethics, vol. 2, no. 1, 2009, pp. 121 – 139. the author in her text “Identifying and eval­u­at­ing lay­ers of vul­ner­ab­il­ity – a way for­ward,” intro­duces the term “cascade-​vulnerabilities”23Luna, Florencia. “Identifying and eval­u­at­ing lay­ers of vul­ner­ab­il­ity – a way for­ward.” Ibid., p. 91. to not only relieve the bur­den of iden­tity fix­a­tion but to high­light the inter­ac­tion of dif­fer­ent vul­ner­ab­il­ity fea­tures while, at the same time, point­ing out that vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies in one real­ity or situ­ation can trig­ger or cre­ate vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies in anoth­er. With dif­fer­ent types of vul­ner­ab­il­ity (eco­nom­ic, emo­tion­al, cog­nit­ive, phys­ic­al, com­mu­nic­a­tion, etc.), the cas­cade lay­ers to which the author draws atten­tion can be extremely harm­ful because they have a “dom­ino effect” and can cause dam­age on sev­er­al levels. Likewise, for her, vul­ner­ab­il­ity can only be under­stood as con­tex­tu­al, which means that vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies can only be under­stood by examin­ing the indi­vidu­al in con­text, and rel­at­ive,24Luna, Florencia and Vanderpoel Sheryl. “Not the usu­al sus­pects: address­ing lay­ers of vul­ner­ab­il­ity.” Bioethics, vol. 27, no. 6, 2013, pp. 325 – 332. since lay­ers and fea­tures of vul­ner­ab­il­ity arise from the inter­ac­tion between indi­vidu­al fea­tures and the fea­tures of their envir­on­ment, cre­at­ing one unbreak­able context-​dependent vulnerability.

“One insight that injury affords is that there are oth­ers out there on whom my life depends, people I do not know and may nev­er know,”25Butler, Judith. Neizvjesni život: moć žalovanja i nas­ilja [Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence]. Translated by Brina Tus, Centar za ženske studije i Fakultet politič­kih znanosti sveučilišta u Zagrebu, 2017, p. 12. states philo­soph­er and fem­in­ist Judith Butler, emphas­ising the import­ance of our inter­de­pend­ence in the inter­pret­a­tion of vul­ner­able life in the con­text of con­tem­por­ary war events. It is this prim­or­di­al depend­ence on anonym­ous oth­ers serving as the tem­plate for the cre­ation of onto­lo­gic­al (con­stitutive) vul­ner­ab­il­ity that, fol­low­ing Levinas’ under­stand­ing of eth­ics,26Levinas, Emmanuel. Ethics and Infinity. Dialogues of Emmanuel Levinas and Philippe Nemo. Translated by Richard A. Cohen, Duquesne University Press, 1985. invites us to not only think through the prism of the vul­ner­able life of anoth­er but also points to the eth­ics of respons­ib­il­ity of the glob­al com­munity of human beings around solu­tions for war­fare, cli­mate cata­strophes, injury, and viol­ence. Levinas’ eth­ics is based on the cog­ni­tion that each of us has a fun­da­ment­al eth­ic­al respons­ib­il­ity for the oth­er; respons­ib­il­ity which is in this sense rad­ic­al and incal­cul­able. It is pre­cisely the vul­ner­ab­il­ity of the oth­er that is the main concept of his eth­ics of respons­ib­il­ity, and the eth­ic­al demand of the oth­er and open­ness to it appear as a place of primacy, as that which determ­ines the onto­lo­gic­al right of each of us to exist, as a require­ment imposed upon the subject.

Is it pos­sible to dis­cern the present time of human enfol­ded­ness by “corona trep­id­a­tion” from this stand­point, does this type of threat encour­age the onto­lo­gic­al close­ness of cooper­a­tion and recog­ni­tion of human beings, or does it dis­tance us on vari­ous axes and split us into human wait­ing rooms of uncer­tain, anti­cip­at­ory plots?

In an effort to artic­u­late vul­ner­ab­il­ity as a place of pos­sible human encounter, and, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of Levinas’ con­cep­tion of vul­ner­ab­il­ity as a com­mon denom­in­at­or of the gath­er­ing of human beings, Butler27Butler, Judith, Ibid., pp. 218 – 219. reaches for dual optics. On the one hand, it is neces­sary to be aware of vul­ner­ab­il­ity as an onto­lo­gic­al imman­ence inher­ent in human beings, and on the oth­er, when polit­ic­al viol­ence pro­duces mul­tiple vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies and accu­mu­lated trau­mat­ic lay­ers that they his­tor­ic­ally carry, it is neces­sary to estab­lish dif­fer­ent norm­at­ive pro­ced­ures for their recog­ni­tion and identification.

Siegfried and Florian D. Zepf, in their text “Trauma and trau­mat­ic neur­os­is: Freud’s con­cepts revis­ited,”28Zepf, Siegfried and Florian Daniel Zepf. “Trauma and trau­mat­ic neur­os­is: Freud’s con­cepts revis­ited.” The International Journal of Psychoanalysis, vol. 89, no. 2, 28 June 2008, pp. 331 – 353. Wiley Online Library, – 8315.2008.00038.x give a dif­fer­ent insight into the inter­pret­a­tion of vul­ner­ab­il­ity. By explain­ing the vul­ner­able struc­ture of people’s psych­ic integ­rity and its lim­it­a­tions, they remind us of Freud’s start­ing point, accord­ing to which “the term ‘trauma’ referred to a viol­ent attack dam­aging the organ­ism from the out­side,”29Zepf, Siegfried and Florian Daniel Zepf. Ibid., p. 331. break­ing through our “pro­tect­ive shield” against extern­al stim­uli or threats. Trauma occurs at the moment when the abil­ity of the ego to main­tain its intern­al secur­ity (secure ego) is fun­da­ment­ally shaken and dis­turbed by an extern­al threat, the con­sequences of which are the psy­cho­lo­gic­al break­down accom­pan­ied by the devel­op­ment of trau­mat­ic neur­os­is. The vul­ner­able ego is over­whelmed by a danger it can­not pre­dict, and its fra­gile self is exposed to many intrus­ive extern­al sensors (actu­al, media, vir­tu­al, etc.) that com­pound its vulnerabilities.

In reflect­ing on the “corona situ­ation” once more, a series of new ques­tions arise, a series of deci­pher­ing demands are placed before us. Trauma, repet­it­ive scen­ari­os from lived exper­i­ences, immun­isa­tion pro­cesses, the absence or delay of mean­ing­ful solu­tions, human detach­ments, and retreats against invoked human close­ness. What defence mech­an­isms are involved; what defence mech­an­isms do we have? How is autoim­munity cre­ated? What is decis­ive? Is it pos­sible for autoim­mun­isa­tion to be the site of a solu­tion, or is it a case of where the “defence against an ima­gined extern­al threat … turns out to be a defence against the defence: an autoim­mune response?”30Drichel, Simone. “Towards a ‘rad­ic­al accept­ance of vul­ner­ab­il­ity:’ Postcolonialism and Deconstruction.” SubStance, vol. 42, no. 3, 2013, pp. 46 – 66, p. 50.

How to cre­ate a space of self-​protective immunity against cur­rent and future vir­al infec­tions but also against self-​destructive autoim­mun­isa­tion? Are resi­li­ent the­or­ies31Miller, Fiona, et al. “Resilience and Vulnerability: Complementary or Conflicting Concepts?” Ecology and Society, vol. 15, no. 3, 2010, pp. 1 – 25. enough, or should we return to the known net­works of onto­lo­gic­al sup­ports and human imprints when facing the vul­ner­ab­il­ity of human lives in their fra­gile exposure?

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