Volume 64, Issue 3, Summer 2020
Special Topic: Vulnerability
Those Who Gather in the Streets
Butler’s Vulnerable Political Subjects
This article examines the notion of vulnerable political subjectivity in Judith Butler’s theory of vulnerability. The paper aims to contribute to critical discussions of Butler’s political theory by offering an account of how the ontological, ethical, and political aspects of vulnerability shape political subjectivity in her work. The first part of the paper analyzes the features of vulnerable political subjects. The second part critically assesses to what extent Butler offers an alternative to the association of vulnerability with a damaged capability to act politically. The third part argues that Butler offers only a partial account of vulnerability as a transformative desire, which is crucial to explaining how and under what conditions vulnerability inspires subjects to engage politically with the conditions that shape their precarity or the precarity of others.