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‘You Were a Lifesaver’: Encountering the Potentials of Vulnerability and Self-care in a Community Café

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jane Midgley



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND).


In this article I critically consider the concept of vulnerability and its interaction with care practice, particularly care of the self. The article is underpinned by a feminist ethics of care perspective that emphasises the relational aspects of vulnerability that can facilitate and realise what are often termed ambivalent or unknown potential outcomes for each individual. The article is informed by original ethnographic research considering the offer and receipt of free meals within one community café in the city of Newcastle in northeast England. The café was organised in response to perceived extent of hunger and social marginalisation within the city. The article explores how vulnerability is experienced and negotiated by individuals visiting the café and argues that in recognising and being open to their own vulnerability and agency such interactions enabled their management of care relations within the café. The article highlights the need to reflect on the self-care-ful actions inherent in an individual’s response to their vulnerability and to critically and politically challenge the constructs of passivity and dependency associated with care and vulnerability and the acceptance of free food in a time of austerity and individualised responsibility.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Midgley JL

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ethics & Social Welfare

Year: 2017

Volume: 12

Issue: 1

Pages: 49-64

Online publication date: 25/10/2017

Acceptance date: 10/10/2017

Date deposited: 11/10/2017

ISSN (print): 1749-6535

ISSN (electronic): 1749-6543

Publisher: Taylor and Francis


DOI: 10.1080/17496535.2017.1393101


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