Embodied and Embedded Vulnerable Subject: Asylum Seekers and Vulnerability Theory

Laura Tarvainen

Tutkimustuotokset: Kirjoitus lehdessä tai erikoisnumeron toimittaminenArtikkeliTieteellinenvertaisarvioitu


The article discusses vulnerability of victims of torture in asylum process. Based on case
study materials, recognizing and addressing vulnerability seems random in asylum
process. Vulnerabilities of torture victims are systematically ignored in the process and
expert medical certificates are not taken into account. In the background exists an
assumption of a logical subject, who is able to make rational decisions and produce
a coherent account of events, even when individuals are suffering from medical
conditions making them unable to manifest such behaviour. This article searches for
explanations relying on Martha Fineman´s vulnerability theory. It will be argued that
the difficulties of taking the vulnerability of the tortured asylum seeker into account
in the asylum process reflect different understandings and uses of the concept of
vulnerability. Moreover, it seems that the asylum process tends to confuse the question
‘who is entitled to international protection?’ with the question ‘who is vulnerable?’.
The globalized context is briefly discussed, which offers yet another way to explain
the difficulties that the asylum system has with vulnerability. The article argues
that a paradigm change is needed ‒ a change where we would look at the concept of
vulnerability in a dynamic and contextual way. Vulnerability should be understood as
socially embedded notion and relational to the institutional and societal contexts in
which it is produced. Vulnerability should be seen as primary human condition that
does not exclude agency, but is rather qualified by different levels of resilience. These,
in turn, are produced within and through institutions and relationships which confer
privilege and power.
JulkaisuNo Foundations: an Interdisciplinary Journal of Law and Justice
Numero17 (2019)
TilaJulkaistu - 2019
OKM-julkaisutyyppiA1 Vertaisarvioitu alkuperäisartikkeli


  • vulnerability
  • haavoittuvuus
  • asylum seekers
  • turvapaikanhakijat
  • legal subject
  • vulnerability theory
  • Martha Fineman

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