Vulnerable articulations: the opportunities and challenges of illness and recovery

Catherine Trundle, Hannah Gibson, Lara Bell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Medical anthropology overwhelmingly reveals vulnerability as a problem of powerlessness. Vulnerable groups and individuals are those exposed to the pernicious effects of inequalities, injustices, and oppressive political realities. This largely pejorative stance, we argue, simplifies the place of vulnerability within human experience and in relation to the body, health and illness. By showcasing a range of interlocking vulnerabilities, this paper reveal the spectrum of positive and negative vulnerabilities that affect health and recovery. Through the concept of vulnerable articulations, this paper argues that health and illness experiences simultaneously create and require a range of different interconnected vulnerabilities, some of them harmful, and some of them life affirming. Ethnographically, this paper explore the concept of vulnerable articulations through two contrasting case studies: a group of British and New Zealand nuclear test veterans seeking compensation from the state, and clients of equine therapy in New Zealand. These case studies reveal that understanding human vulnerability requires a close attention to how people navigate between the diverse vulnerabilities that they face, and that attaining well-being often involves harnessing positive vulnerabilities in order to lessen the effects of damaging vulnerabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-212
Number of pages16
JournalAnthropology and Medicine
Issue number2
Early online date21 Jun 2018
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2019


  • vulnerability
  • contested illness
  • equine therapy
  • experiences of illness
  • veterans' health


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