“The kaleidoscope of vulnerability”. Proposing a methodological approach enabling breadth and depth of exploration.

Authors: Heaslip, V.


Start date: 27 July 2011

People can experience feeling vulnerable whenever their health or usual function is compromised and can increase when they enter unfamiliar surroundings, situations or relationships. One’s experience of vulnerability can also be heightened through interaction between the individual and the society within which they live. As such, vulnerability is a dynamic concept that crosses the interface between the self and the social world. It is therefore a key concept for professional practice; however this complex, elusive phenomenon is ill defined within the literature. Within studies of vulnerability it is the existential (lived) experience that is the most silent in comparison to normative perspectives, for example the Gypsy/Travelling community are often normatively identified by researchers and professionals as a vulnerable group due to increased morbidity and mortality as well as their marginalised status within society. But this tells us nothing of the experience of feeling vulnerable by the individuals themselves, and yet without their stories and experiences how can professionals ensure that service developments meet their needs. Within a PhD study (The Lived Experience of Vulnerability; understanding vulnerability from a Gypsy/Travelling community) that wished to explore this further, many methodological challenges have arisen. Firstly, defining what is meant by the term vulnerability (breadth), and secondly illuminating the ‘essence’ of the phenomenon (depth). This paper presents the proposed methodological approach chosen to enable both breadth and depth of exploration for discussion and debate.

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