Revisiting the concept of 'vulnerability'

François Delor, Michel Hubert
2000 Social Science and Medicine  
The terms'vulnerable' and'vulnerability' are used more and more frequently in the areas of both social science research into and prevention of HIV/AIDS, but certain diculties arise when it comes to applying this concept to actual situations at the heart of which individuals or groups are more exposed to HIV. The concept of vulnerability must thus be clari®ed to reinforce its heuristic capacity and political and practical relevancy. The ®rst part of this paper is devoted to presenting a
more » ... matrix of vulnerability, used in previous research among people living with HIV/AIDS (PWHAs) and to extracting three levels of intelligibility, that is to say, ®rst the social trajectory level, then the level on which two or more trajectories intersect, and ®nally that of the social context. Each of the elements belonging to these three levels must be described both objectively and subjectively. The identity construction processes are then proposed as particular observation and'gelling' points for these various levels taken as a whole. In the second part of the paper, we have reviewed how the concept of'vulnerability' has been de®ned and used in other ®elds, notably disaster, famine, and mental health, paying special attention to the crucial points in the debates that are raging in these ®elds. We have also shed light on a few concepts that are frequently associated with vulnerability, such as victimization, insecurity, and risk. In the third part, we have summarized our approach to vulnerability as a relevant concept for elucidating risktaking processes and designing intervention programmes. The importance of analysing the inter-individual dierences, the variability in time and the relational dimension of all social vulnerability has been stressed. 7
doi:10.1016/s0277-9536(99)00465-7 pmid:10795963 fatcat:nuddowrm55fxpgaaplsafkhzyi