The power of vulnerability interrogates the new language of vulnerability that has emerged in feminist, queer and anti-racist debates about the production, use and meanings of media. The book investigates the historical legacies and contemporary forms and effects of this language. In today’s media culture, traumatic first-person or group narratives have popular currency, mobilising affect from compassion to rage to gain cultural visibility and political advantage. In this context, vulnerability becomes a kind of capital, a resource or an asset that can and has been appropriated for various groups and purposes in public discourses, activism as well as cultural institutions. Thus, politics of representation translates into politics of affect, and the question about whose vulnerability counts as socially and culturally legible and acknowledged. The contributors of the book examine how vulnerability has become a battleground; how affect and vulnerability have turned into a politicised language for not only addressing but also obscuring asymmetries of power; and how media activism and state policies address so-called vulnerable groups. While the contributors investigate the political potential as well as the constraints of vulnerability for feminist, queer and antiracist criticism, they also focus on the forms of agency and participation vulnerability can offer.
Between “Stranger in the Village” and I Am Not Your
Jovita dos Santos Pinto, Noémi Michel, Patricia Purtschert, Paola Bacchetta and Vanessa Naef
James Baldwin’s writing, his persona, as well as his public speeches,
interviews, and discussions are undergoing a renewed reception in the arts, in
queer and critical race studies, and in queer of color movements. Directed by
Raoul Peck, the film I Am Not Your Negro decisively contributed
to the rekindled circulation of Baldwin across the Atlantic. Since 2017,
screenings and commentaries on the highly acclaimed film have prompted
discussions about the persistent yet variously racialized temporospatial
formations of Europe and the U.S. Stemming from a roundtable that followed a
screening in Zurich in February 2018, this collective essay wanders between the
audio-visual and textual matter of the film and Baldwin’s essay
“Stranger in the Village,” which was also adapted into a
film-essay directed by Pierre Koralnik, staging Baldwin in the Swiss village of
Leukerbad. Privileging Black feminist, postcolonial, and queer of color
perspectives, we identify three sites of Baldwin’s transatlantic
reverberations: situated knowledge, controlling images, and everyday sexual
racism. In conclusion, we reflect on the implications of racialized, sexualized
politics for today’s Black feminist, queer, and trans of color movements
located in continental Europe—especially in Switzerland and France.
–or safer –spaces online.
The point of departure for this chapter is my own initial doubt, even confusion, about trigger warnings. As a feminist media scholar long involved
in interrogating ‘bad feelings’, and convinced they serve a purpose in
Vulnerability as a battleground
challenging unjust power structures (Kyrölä, 2015; 2017), I felt such warnings
ring disconcertingly of avoidance –and it seems that this point of departure
is shared by most feminist, queer and criticalracestudies scholars who
have participated in the public debate so far. However
(2016) have critiqued the move to redefine vulnerability in
contradistinction to victimisation, since if victims are not seen as victims
this may inadvertently feed into politics which does not prioritise changing
injustices. Cole suggests, furthermore, that there needs to be a clear distinction between those that are injurable and those who are already injured.
Expectedly, many feminist, queer, and criticalracestudies scholars have
turned to other or nearby concepts instead of vulnerability to address the
tensions between injury and power. Butler herself has, for
What does race have to do with the Yugoslav region?
identifications with symbolic histories and geographies of race. They include not only identifications with ‘Europe’ as a space of modernity, civilisation and (criticalracestudies would insist) whiteness, but also analogies drawn between ‘Balkanness’ and ‘blackness’ in imagined solidarity, as well as the race-blind anti-colonialism of Yugoslav Non-Alignment (which, under Tito, cast the leader of this European country as a model of national liberation for the Global South). The Yugoslav region is increasingly likely to be thought of as ‘post-conflict’ and ‘postsocialist’, the