Corporeal Vulnerability and the Temporality of Feminist Theory


  • Emily Cousens Oxford Brookes University



In recent years, Judith Butler has been credited with advancing a ‘theory’ of vulnerability that addresses the concerns of previous articulations of the concept within feminist thought. This article will closely elucidate Butler’s presentation of this term, distinguishing it from other proximately related terms in her work: precarity and precariousness. It will then proceed to level two, related, criticisms at what is a highly important contribution to contemporary feminist thought. First, it will argue that the emerging discourse of vulnerability within feminism tends to present there as being an ‘old’ and ‘new’ formulation of the concept, that correspond to ‘bad’ and ‘good’ respectively. I will argue that such an approach is emblematic of the ‘progress narrative’ within much feminist academia, where authors are compelled to situate themselves against their forbearers. This leads to the second criticism: that this process of dismissing past feminist reflections on vulnerability has led to a lacuna in feminist thought regarding the possibility of theorising sexual violence. 

Author Biography

Emily Cousens, Oxford Brookes University

BA Philosophy Politics and Economics, University of Oxford; MA Women's Studies, University of Oxford ; PhD Candidate, Oxford Brookes University; lecturer Oxford Brookes University and The University of Hertfordshire


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How to Cite

Cousens, E. (2018) “Corporeal Vulnerability and the Temporality of Feminist Theory”, Studies in Social and Political Thought, 270. doi: 10.20919/sspt.27.2017.71.