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Thematic Issue: Vulnerability and the Law

Silencing Prote(x)t: Disrupting the Scripts of Mental Health Law


Fleur Beaupert

This article interrogates how civil mental health law providing for forced mental health interventions defines and produces vulnerability. Drawing on the work of Judith Butler, a concept of ‘intercorporeal vulnerability’, emphasising ways in which vulnerability may be generated through the interaction between sociopolitical forces and human bodies, is adopted. Vulnerabilities arising in the mental health law context which tend to be unrecognised or disavowed in a manner that reaffirms dominant discourses about madness, disability and normalcy are identified. Based on this analysis, it is argued that formal deployment of ‘vulnerability’ within disability law and policy may problematically reinscribe disability within a negative vulnerability status. It is further argued that methodological approaches examining intersections between different sites of identity, power and historicity are imperative to ensure that injustice and inequality can be named, exposed and challenged. The productive and transformative potential of the relationship between vulnerability and resistance is also considered.

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(2018) 41(3) UNSWLJ 746: