Balancing words, balancing lives: Framing vulnerability in times of crisis

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Words matter, especially in times of crisis. This article analyses the complexities of political discourse on vulnerability by considering the case of the Dutch COVID-19 response. Our study finds that the framing of vulnerability as a predetermined and naturalised condition, linked to old age and pre-existing medical conditions, draws attention away from aspects of precarisation tied to economic position, social class, cultural background and living conditions. This rhetorical strategy can be understood as a practice of de-responsibilisation through which attention is rhetorically diverted from the way(s) in which political authorities are implicated in producing, exacerbating or failing to mitigate vulnerabilities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-19
Number of pages19
JournalInternational Journal of Care and Caring
Early online date7 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - 7 Apr 2023


  • COVID-19
  • de-responsibilisation
  • political discourse
  • vulnerability

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