The virtues of vulnerability: humility, autonomy, and citizen-subjectivity (2020)
in: Oxford scholarship online
There are many locations, relationships, & experiences through which we learn what it means to be a citizen. Contemporary healthcare - or 'the clinic' - is one of those sites. Being drawn into the complex 'medical-legal-policy-insurance nexus' as a patient entails all sorts of learning, including, it is argued here, political learning. When we are subjected as a patient, frequently through a discourse of 'choice & control,' or 'patient autonomy,' what do we learn? What happens when the promise of a certain kind of autonomy is accompanied by demands for a certain kind of humility? What do we learn about agency & self-determination, as well as trust, self-knowledge, dependence, & resistance under such conditions of acute vulnerability? This text explores these questions on a journey through medicalized encounters with giving birth, navigating death, & seeking treatment for life-altering mental illness.