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The power of vulnerability

Mobilising affect in feminist, queer and anti-racist media cultures

Edited by: Anu Koivunen, Katariina Kyrölä and Ingrid Ryberg

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.

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Visibility and vulnerability

Translatina world-making in The Salt Mines and Wildness

Laura Horak

 95 6 VISIBILITY AND VULNERABILITY Translatina world-​making in The Salt Mines and Wildness Laur a Hor ak M idway through the documentary film Wildness (US, Wu Tsang, 2012), we see a montage of glowing night-​time Los Angeles streets and a laughing and posing translatina woman. Over a pulsing beat, the husky, feminine voice of the Silver Platter, a half-​century-​old Latinx gay bar, testifies (in Spanish): My ladies are strong … But we all have our limits. Not only do they live in fear of being deported, they also have to deal with abuse from their families

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Anu Koivunen, Katariina Kyrölä and Ingrid Ryberg

 1 1 VULNERABILITY AS A POLITICAL LANGUAGE A nu Koi v une n, K atar iina K yröl ä a nd I ngr id  Ry berg I n present-​ day public discussions, questions of power, agency, and the media are debated more intensely than ever as issues of injury or empowerment. Vulnerability has emerged as a key concept circulating in these discussions and their academic analyses. The #MeToo campaign, as well as its extensions like #TimesUp and versions in various languages across the globe, has been taken up as a key example of these tendencies, showing how the public

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Katariina Kyrölä

 29 2 NEGOTIATING VULNERABILITY IN THE TRIGGER WARNING DEBATES K atar iina  K y r ö l ä S ince around 2012, the use of trigger warnings or content warnings has spread all over the Internet and, to some extent, academic classrooms. Warnings about content that may be upsetting, offensive or that could trigger post-​traumatic stress responses abound online, particularly in contexts where the addressed include people or groups deemed marginalised, disadvantaged or traumatised. Trigger or content warnings have most commonly been linked to online images and texts

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Johanna Gondouin, Suruchi Thapar-Björkert and Ingrid Ryberg

 116 7 WHITE VULNERABILITY AND THE POLITICS OF REPRODUCTION IN TOP OF THE LAKE: CHINA GIRL Jo ha n na G ond ouin, Suruc hi Thapar- ​Björ k ert a nd I ngr id  Ry berg T  op of The Lake: China Girl (Australia, Jane Campion, 2017) is the sequel to Jane Campion and Gerard Lee’s crime series Top of the Lake from 2013, directed by Campion and Ariel Kleiman. After four years of absence, Inspector Robin Griffin (Elisabeth Moss) returns to the Sydney Police Force and comes to lead the murder case of an unidentified young Asian woman, found in a suitcase at Bondi Beach

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Spectacularly wounded

White male vulnerability as heterosexual fantasy

Susanna Paasonen

 133 8 SPECTACULARLY WOUNDED White male vulnerability as heterosexual fantasy Susa nna Paa sonen I n a 2012 interview, E. L. James, the author of the massively popular Fifty Shades novel series, describes its male protagonist Christian Grey as ‘the ultimate fantasy guy. And that’s the point: As long as you accept that fantasy guy –​fantasy sex, fantasy lifestyle, a broken man who needs fixing through love –​what woman could resist that?’ (in Thomas, 2012.) Grey is a twenty-​seven-​year-​old, white, cis-​gendered, Seattle-​based multi-​billionaire businessman

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Abortion prevention

Lesbian citizenship and filmmaking in Sweden in the 1970s

Ingrid Ryberg

in the 1970s and 1980s. Undertaking a close reading of the two films’ funding processes in this chapter, I  investigate the ambiguous sexual citizenship (Bell and Binnie, 2000; Evans, 1993) shaped by the interplay between formal sexual policymaking and lesbian film production in Sweden at a moment in time when  196 196 Vulnerability and cultural policy homosexuality was on the threshold of becoming recognised as a civil rights issue. Drawing from original archival research and interviews, I shed light on the rhetorical twists and euphemisms through which

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Naming, shaming, framing?

The ambivalence of queer visibility in audio- visual archives

Dagmar Brunow

 175 10 NAMING, SHAMING, FRAMING? The ambivalence of queer visibility in audio-​visual archives* Dag m ar  Brunow T his chapter looks at the dynamics of visibility and vulnerability in audio-​ visual heritage. It analyses how film archives in Sweden and the UK, following their diversity policies, address and mobilise the notion of queer, recognising and making visible queer lives, history and cinema, and how they negotiate the risks of increased visibility. In this approach, the archive is positioned as an object of analysis, shifting the focus on the archive

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Trigger happy

From content warning to censorship

Jack Halberstam

2012 had never heard of trigger warnings, let alone Tumblr sites (where trigger warnings were popularised and proliferated), and were not opposed to them so much as ignorant of their purpose. When professors understood what they were Chapter 3 © 2016 The University of Chicago.  52 52 Vulnerability as a battleground being asked to do, a standoff ensued between faculty, administrators, and students, and eventually the online resource was removed. In another instance, at the University of California at Santa Barbara, a student demand for content warnings on all

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The caring nation

Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves as a reparative fantasy

Anu Koivunen

as one with the nation. At the same time, the nation of ‘us’ was redefined as a community of compassion, and a historical notion of Swedish welfare state as caring was regenerated. The vulnerability of gay men during the epidemic and their suffering were recognised, the national self-​image healed, and a new community of proper feeling envisioned (Berlant, 1999). GAY EPIC TO NATIONAL EPIC Released over a year between August 2012 and August 2013, Jonas Gardell’s trilogy of novels (2012a; 2013a; 2013b) and a three-​part TV drama Don’t Ever Wipe Tears Without Gloves