Call-for-Papers:”A Workshop on Vulnerability and Social Justice”

Call-for-Papers: A Workshop on Vulnerability and Social Justice, June 17-18, 2016, University of Leeds, UK.


Workshop Details:

The Workshop begins Friday at 4PM in the Moot Court Room, the Liberty Building, University of Leeds. Dinner will follow the panel presentation session on Friday. Panel presentations continue on Saturday from 9:00 AM to 5PM; breakfast and lunch will be provided.


Submission Procedure:

Email a proposal as a Word or PDF document by March 1, 2016 to Antony Butcher ( and Rachel Ezrol (


Decisions will be made by March 25, 2016 and working paper drafts will be due May 20, 2016so they can be duplicated and distributed prior to the Workshop.

The terms “vulnerability” and “social justice” have been used with increasing frequency in recent years. Both are often invoked in alternative, sometimes incompatible ways. In this workshop we are interested in exploring what these terms mean, individually and in relation to each other,  in everyday, political, and professional usage, as well as their potential as “terms of art” for furthering substantive progressive change.


The Vulnerability and Human Condition Initiative (VHC) uses the concept of vulnerability to challenge the dominant conception of the universal legal subject as an autonomous, independent and fully-functioning adult. Rather than building our systems of law and justice upon this static figment of the liberal imagination, the VHC approach argues for a socially and materially dynamic vulnerable legal subject, based on a richer account of how actual peoples’ lives are shaped by an inherent and constant state of vulnerability across the life-course. Vulnerability in this approach is a universalizing concept that focuses on relationships, institutions, needs, and shared or collective responsibility. It asserts there should be political and legal implications for the fact that we live within a fragile materiality that renders us constantly susceptible to change, both positive and negative, in our bodily and our social circumstances. Such vulnerability may be realized in the form of dependency on others for care, cooperation, or assistance or it may manifest through our dependency on social arrangements, such as the family or the market and economy.


The Centre for Law & Social Justice (L&SJ) explores the role that law has in addressing inequalities and achieving a more just society. L&SJ provides a home for researchers who come from very different intellectual and theoretical traditions, and whose substantive foci cover the spectrum of contemporary concerns. Yet all members share in recognizing the importance of securing access to a range of rights and resources as a baseline for respecting human dignity. Through a number of different theoretical frameworks – including vulnerability theory, the capabilities approach, human rights, embodiment theory, and Marxist and feminist approaches -L&SJ explores various articulations of standards, needs, and our expectations of both state and non-state actors.


Nevertheless, social justice is a term susceptible to different emphases and meanings, both within and between jurisdictions. Some commentators have pointed out that there may be a tension between the pursuit of social justice and neoliberal tendencies to hold individual freedom or liberty as paramount; others see the development of individual well-being and flourishing as necessary for collective advancement and as such compatible with a focus on freedom and liberty. However, the pursuit of social justice may mean it is sometimes necessary to put collective objectives ahead of individual interests and desires. While such tensions can be overcome, the contemporary emphasis on individual rights and freedoms – particularly in the US – can and have been adopted to undercut arguments for state regulation and intervention. Further, the turn to austerity has weakened commitments to social justice even in welfare orientated states. This workshop aims to explore the relationship between vulnerability and social justice, and the role of the responsive state in promoting both individual and institutional resilience.


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