Surviving Identity: Vulnerability and the Psychology of Recognition

Date: Monday 16 July 2012, 6:45pm (for 7pm start) to 8:30pm

Venue: Room 5, The Carriageworks, Leeds

Speaker: Ken McLaughlin

Panel: Kate Brown and Andrea Hollomotz

£5 waged/£3 unwaged on the door

Facebook event link


Leeds Salon invites Dr Ken McLaughlin to discuss his latest book, Surviving Identity: Vulnerability and the Psychology of Recognition

Today, political claims are increasingly made on the basis of experienced trauma and inherent vulnerability, as evidenced in the growing number of people who identify as a "survivor" of one thing or another, and also in the way in which much political discourse and social policy assumes the vulnerability of the population. In Surviving Identity, Ken McLaughlin discusses these developments in relation to the changing focus of social movements, from concerns with economic redistribution, towards campaigns for cultural recognition. As a result of this, the experience of trauma and psychological vulnerability has become a dominant paradigm within which both personal and political grievances are expressed.

Combining the psychological, social, and political aspects of the expression of individual distress and political dissent, this book provides a unique analysis of how concepts such as "vulnerability" and "trauma" have become institutionalised within politics and society. It also offers a critical appraisal of the political and personal implications of these developments, and in addition, shows how the institutionalisation of the survivor identity represents a diminished view of the human subject and our capacity to achieve progressive political and individual change.

Ken will face questions from our expert panel.



"Surviving Identity provides a compelling and troubling account of the social demand for affirmation and recognition. Paradoxically the turn towards validating identity has intensified our sense of vulnerability." — Frank Furedi, Professor of Sociology, School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, University of Kent, UK

"Surviving Identity provides an incisive analysis of victim culture and the growing tendency to seek therapeutic solutions to the problems of everyday life." — David Wainwright, Senior Lecturer, School of Health, University of Bath, UK

"This book must be read by teachers, social workers, mental health professionals, charity workers, trade unionists and all who do not want to see their professional work reinforcing and celebrating a ‘survivor’ mentality." — Dennis Hayes, Head of the Centre for Educational Research, University of Derby, UK



We are not all mentally ill now, Spiked Review of Books, April 2012

Re-moralising 'vulnerability', Kate Brown, "People, Place and Policy Online"

Moral Maze debate asking 'Should we be treating the cause of mental illness rather than the symptoms?' (with Ken McLaughlin), BBC R4, 20 June 2012



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