School of Law

From Contested Concept to Lived Experience: Researching Vulnerability

6 May 2015, 16:00 - 18:00 

Room G.33, School of Law, Liberty Building 

In this Section:

The idea of ‘vulnerability’ is frequently drawn upon to highlight duties or responsibilities to protect certain ‘needy’ groups and individuals. It is becoming an increasingly prominent notion in a policy context dominated by austerity and economic liberal agendas. Despite having a seemingly neutral or benevolent veneer, a closer look at vulnerability reveals a kaleidoscope of understandings about what this might be taken to mean, and that its deployment often links with value-laden practices and wider exclusionary social trends.

This seminar will follow the thread of vulnerability from ethics and philosophy debates, through policies and interventions, to lived experiences, illustrating how the notion was operationalised in research with ‘vulnerable’ young people. Reflections on the methodology and findings of the study will highlight how the approaches taken by researchers are deeply connected with the social worlds they then go out to ‘discover’, with important implications for groups who are traditionally seen as ‘hard to reach’ or ‘marginalised’. 

This is a free event open to all but registration is required in advance at Eventbrite. Refreshments will be available.

‘The L&SJ Seminar Series on Innovative Methodological and Theoretical Approaches’

Law & Social Justice, established at the University of Leeds School of Law to support scholars, activists, organisations and practitioners who are interested in and engage with questions about inequalities in welfare and social justice, are delivering a Seminar Series exploring innovative methodological and theoretical approaches to conducting research with marginalised groups.

Our speakers have been selected on the basis of their ground-breaking contributions to research in the interdisciplinary fields of law, healthcare and social policy. They have been at the forefront of developing original approaches to accessing, working with, assisting, and advocating for, disadvantaged groups; as well as developing insightful and rigorous theoretical frameworks which have helped achieve more nuanced understandings of inequality and exclusion.

This seminar series will be of interest to academics, professionals and post-graduate students researching in the fields of law, social justice, social policy, welfare, disability, race, gender studies, family relations, healthcare, access to justice, and human rights. The Series provides the opportunity to hear about and discuss exciting new ways to conceptualise and conduct research that aims to improve social justice.

For more information please contact: or


Dr Kate Brown

Dr Kate Brown is a lecturer in Social Policy and Crime at the University of York. Her research explores care and control processes for vulnerable groups, focussing especially on notions of vulnerability in social policy and disciplinary systems. Before postgraduate study Kate worked for nearly ten years as a practitioner and manager in the voluntary sector, supporting various groups who are sometimes considered 'problematic'. She remains active in services for vulnerable groups as Chair of Trustees and a volunteer for Genesis, a charity which supports sex workers and sexually exploited young people in Leeds. Her book Vulnerability and Young People: Care and Social Control in Policy and Practice, published by The Policy Press, is due out in July 2015.

Room 1.14
School of Law
Liberty Building
University of Leeds

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The Liberty Building is number 16 on the campus map.

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