Managing Vulnerability : Everyday Interaction in Sheltered Accommodations

Sammanfattning: The purpose of this dissertation is to develop our understanding of the performance and management of vulnerability in social interaction. The term vulnerability is used frequently within a wide range of scholarly fields, however common conceptions of vulnerability have been criticized for containing normative assumptions about our propensities for being exposed to and capabilities for dealing with adverse events and experiences. Through ethnographic investigations carried out in sheltered accommodations for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities in Sweden, the dissertation seeks to challenge how scholarship on care and disability has approached matters of vulnerability. The analysis shows that vulnerability was performed in two distinct overarching forms: 1) vulnerability related to “situational uncertainty” perceived as a threat to individuals’ health and personal safety and 2) vulnerability related to “ritual automatization” perceived as a threat to individuals’ personal freedom and well-being. The study found that pervasive institutional demands for transparency, accountability, uniformity and self-monitoring were loudly echoed to be the formally sanctioned best course of action for managing vulnerability in the context of sheltered accommodations. However, the analysis suggests that these types of strategies only address vulnerabilities related to situational uncertainty, whereas they may do more to exaggerate vulnerabilities related to ritual automatization. By performing and managing vulnerability, service users and support workers participated in “interaction rituals” with socially stratifying effects based on the individuals’ perceived or assumed competences. By considering the positions, relationships, and encounters between service users and support workers who engage on an everyday basis in sheltered accommodations which are conceptualized as “vulnerability-based” and “chimeric” interventions for care and service provision, the dissertation opens new perspectives on the performance and management of vulnerability in social interaction.

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