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      Victimhood: The affective politics of vulnerability

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      European Journal of Cultural Studies
      SAGE Publications

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          Abstract

          In this article, I enquire into the historical circumstances (past and present) under which vulnerability, an embodied and social condition of openness to violence, turns into victimhood, an act of affective communication that attaches the moral value accrued to the vulnerable to everyone who claims it. The 20th-century victimhood, I argue, emerged as a master-signifier of emotional capitalism through the two grand narratives of modernity, psychoanalysis and human rights, each of which tactically mobilizes affective claims to trauma or injury to bestow the moral value of the sufferer to any powerful claimant independent of the position of vulnerability they speak from. Turning to the 21st century, I place victimhood within the communicative context of post-recession and digital neoliberalism to show how the two amplify, accelerate and complicate the circulation of affective claims to suffering, rendering platformized pain a ‘new normal’ of our culture. In order to address the implications of this ‘new normal’ on the most vulnerable in society, I propose the distinction between ‘tactical’ and ‘systemic’ vulnerability as a heuristic frame that enables us to ask questions about who claims to be a victim, from which position and to which effects; and, in so doing, helps us to scrutinize the social contexts in which affective claims to victimhood are made and the power relations such claims reproduce or challenge.

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          Most cited references52

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          Big other: surveillance capitalism and the prospects of an information civilization

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            The Platform Society

            Individuals all over the world can use Airbnb to rent an apartment in a foreign city, check Coursera to find a course on statistics, join PatientsLikeMe to exchange information about one’s disease, hail a cab using Uber, or read the news through Facebook’s Instant Articles. In The Platform Society , Van Dijck, Poell, and De Waal offer a comprehensive analysis of a connective world where platforms have penetrated the heart of societies—disrupting markets and labor relations, transforming social and civic practices, and affecting democratic processes. The Platform Society analyzes intense struggles between competing ideological systems and contesting societal actors—market, government, and civil society—asking who is or should be responsible for anchoring public values and the common good in a platform society. Public values include, of course, privacy, accuracy, safety, and security; but they also pertain to broader societal effects, such as fairness, accessibility, democratic control, and accountability. Such values are the very stakes in the struggle over the platformization of societies around the globe. The Platform Society highlights how these struggles play out in four private and public sectors: news, urban transport, health, and education. Some of these conflicts highlight local dimensions, for instance, fights over regulation between individual platforms and city councils, while others address the geopolitical level where power clashes between global markets and (supra-)national governments take place.
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              Cyberbullying, school bullying, and psychological distress: a regional census of high school students.

              Using data from a regional census of high school students, we have documented the prevalence of cyberbullying and school bullying victimization and their associations with psychological distress. In the fall of 2008, 20,406 ninth- through twelfth-grade students in MetroWest Massachusetts completed surveys assessing their bullying victimization and psychological distress, including depressive symptoms, self-injury, and suicidality. A total of 15.8% of students reported cyberbullying and 25.9% reported school bullying in the past 12 months. A majority (59.7%) of cyberbullying victims were also school bullying victims; 36.3% of school bullying victims were also cyberbullying victims. Victimization was higher among nonheterosexually identified youths. Victims report lower school performance and school attachment. Controlled analyses indicated that distress was highest among victims of both cyberbullying and school bullying (adjusted odds ratios [AORs] were from 4.38 for depressive symptoms to 5.35 for suicide attempts requiring medical treatment). Victims of either form of bullying alone also reported elevated levels of distress. Our findings confirm the need for prevention efforts that address both forms of bullying and their relation to school performance and mental health.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                (View ORCID Profile)
                Journal
                European Journal of Cultural Studies
                European Journal of Cultural Studies
                SAGE Publications
                1367-5494
                1460-3551
                February 2021
                December 23 2020
                February 2021
                : 24
                : 1
                : 10-27
                Affiliations
                [1 ]London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
                Article
                10.1177/1367549420979316
                16b1e978-8da2-4e3f-ab5f-3a6d9c818cdf
                © 2021

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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