Institute of Advanced Studies



IAS Junior Research Fellows Dr Allison Deutsch and Dr Peter Leary are researching this theme.

This theme is open to the widest possible interpretation and is assumed to address the concerns of many disciplines and departments while providing a frame for thinking across or even bypassing entrenched or established modes of thinking. It could include the following concerns:

  • A state of being wounded, subject to harm or injury
  • A relational condition of dependence invoking external and internal forces or dangers
  • Figurations of vulnerability, in literature, art, humanitarian discourse, politics and poetics
  • The constitution/construction of vulnerable subjects and groups, regions, languages, populations or communities
  • The instrumentalizations of vulnerability in human rights discourse, humanitarian studies, refugee studies, public policy and politics
  • Vulnerability and victimhood: ethics, values, agency and moral judgement
  • Vulnerability and violence: epistemic, actual and strategic
  • The relationship of ‘vulnerability’ to ‘precarity’, ‘fragility’ or ‘risk’
  • Vulnerable forms: genres, mediums, practices, objects, structures, materials, modes of being, life-worlds
  • The gendering/ageing/sexing of vulnerability: vulnerability and intersectionality
  • Vulnerability and visibility, vulnerability and difference, vulnerability as image
  • Vulnerability and the law, discourses of protection, care and control, compassion and support
  • Vulnerability, performance and performativity
  • Vulnerability and power, vulnerability and strength/resilience


Vulnerability Seminar: Stupid Shame


Time and Date: 5 - 7 pm, 17 January 2018
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

Professor Steven Connor, University of Cambridge

This talk will consider the vulnerability of those assigned to a category which most human groups treat with angry revulsion: the stupid. Professor Connor will suggest that stupidity is more tightly than ever twinned with shame in our growing epistemocracy. But if the power to shame is toxically potent, the condition of shame, though the most exquisitely painful form of vulnerability, may also harbour surprising, and dangerous powers of insurgence.

Steven Connor is Grace 2 Professor of English and Fellow of Peterhouse in the University of Cambridge. From October 2018 he will be Director of Cambridge’s Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH). He is a writer, critic and broadcaster, who has published books on many topics, including Dickens, Beckett, Joyce, value, ventriloquism, skin, flies and air. His most recent books are Beyond Words: Sobbing, Humming and Other Vocalizations (2014), Beckett, Modernism and the Material Imagination (2014), Living by Numbers: In Defence of Quantity (2016) and Dream Machines (2017) . His book The Madness of Knowledge will appear in 2018. His website at stevenconnor.com includes the texts of talks and lectures, broadcasts, unpublished work and work in progress.

Please register here.

#MeToo: A Panel Discussion on Vulnerability and Visibility


Time and Date: 6 - 8 pm, 21 November 2017
Location: IAS Common Ground, Ground Floor, South Wing

The impact of the online #MeToo campaign and the ongoing fallout following the exposure of Harvey Weinstein continues to be felt across politics, the arts, and media. Against this backdrop and as part of the IAS ‘vulnerability’ research theme, this panel will discuss the complex relationship between vulnerability and visibility. Panelists will touch on the ways in which visibility can be empowering – exposing the reality of sexual violence, or giving a voice and platform to disadvantaged groups – but also how visibility can sometimes leave women and others vulnerable to various forms of harassment or abuse.

Contributors include:

  • Shaista Aziz, Journalist, writer, and stand-up comedian
  • Dr Tiffany Page, Lecturer in Sociology, University of Cambridge
  • Kate Parker, London Director, The Schools Consent Project
  • Laura Thompson, PhD researcher, City University London

The event will be followed by a wine reception.

All welcome! Please register here.