judith butler, zeynep gambetti,
and leticia sabsay
This volume takes up the challenge to reformulate two fundamental concepts—
vulnerability and resistance— beyond two assumptions pervasive in several
popu lar and theoretical discourses. The first holds that vulnerability is the op-
posite of re sistance and cannot be conceived as part of that practice; the second
supposes that vulnerability requires and implies the need for protection and
the strengthening of paternalistic forms of power at the expense of collective
forms of re sistance and social transformation.
Our point of departure is to call into question through the analy sis of
concrete contexts the basic assumption that vulnerability and re sistance are
mutually oppositional, even as the opposition is found throughout in main-
stream politics as well as prominent strands of feminist theory. Dominant
conceptions of vulnerability and of action presuppose (and support) the idea
that paternalism is the site of agency, and vulnerability, understood only as
victimization and passivity, invariably the site of inaction. In order to provide
an alternative to such frameworks, we ask what in our analytic and po litical
frameworks would change if vulnerability were imagined as one of the con-
ditions of the very possibility of re sistance. What follows when we conceive
of re sistance as drawing from vulnerability as a resource of vulnerability, or
as part of the very meaning or action of re sistance itself? What implications
does this perspective have for thinking about the subject of po litical agency?
What ideas of the po litical subject, and po litical subjectivity, emerge outside,
or against, this binary? These preliminary questions lead us to others, where
our initial conceptions must be rethought: How are vulnerability and bodily
exposure related, especially when we think about the exposure of the body
to power? Is that exposure both perilous and enabling? What is the relation
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