Vulnerabilities and Power: The Political Side of Health Research

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In this chapter, I will argue that there is a political dimension to research, and that accounts of health research regulation that ignore political relations between stakeholders are therefore incomplete. The concept of vulnerability – particularly vulnerability to exploitation – provides the grit around which the claims are built. This is because vulnerability is an inescapable part of human life; because research participation may magnify vulnerability, even while health research itself promises to mitigate certain vulnerabilities (most directly vulnerability to illness, but indirectly vulnerability to economic hardships that may follow therefrom); and because vulnerability is manifested in, exacerbated by, or mitigated through, inherently political relationships with others, the groups and communities of which we are a part, and in the context of which all research takes place. I shall not be making any normative claims about research regulation here, save for the suggestion that decision-makers ought to take account of latent political aspects in their deliberations. For the most part, I shall simply attempt to sketch out some of those political aspects.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Handbook of Health Research Regulation
EditorsGraeme Laurie, Edward Dove, Agomoni Gangul-Mitra, Catriona McMillan, Emily Postan, Nayha Sethi, Annie Sorbie
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781108620024
ISBN (Print)9781108475976
Publication statusPublished - 2021


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