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Open AccessArticle

“I Don’t Have the Nerve to Tell These People That I Cannot Help Them!”: Vulnerability, Ethnography, and Good Intentions

Instituto de Ciências Sociais, Universidade de Lisboa, 1600-189 Lisboa, Portugal
Societies 2019, 9(4), 84; https://doi.org/10.3390/soc9040084
Received: 14 November 2019 / Revised: 6 December 2019 / Accepted: 7 December 2019 / Published: 9 December 2019
The nonprofit organization where this ethnography took place, driven by the maxim ”lending a hand”, was forced to reduce its efforts to what it considered essential, at a time when austerity was beginning to take shape in Portugal. The analysis of the logics employed to distribute food to the neediest proved to be critical to the understanding of the consequences of apparent beneficial actions in this context. The concept of ”vulnerable” is, therefore, discussed considering how it was produced by a legal instrument and how it was reproduced by a local institution, what were the consequences for the subjects involved in this research and also for the vulnerable ethnographer. This investigation was based on several months of intense fieldwork where different ethnographic methodologies were employed in order to grasp the complexities of vulnerability and good intentions, such as participants’ observations and semi-directive interviews. Although this paper focuses on the analysis of the distribution of food support during a later visit to the fieldwork site, it is not the purpose of this paper to discuss issues of food shortage, but to contribute to the debate of care in the context of deprivation and precariousness, anchored in an ethnography where these concepts intertwine with real situations. View Full-Text
Keywords: medical anthropology; social housing; vulnerability; social suffering; good intentions; austerity medical anthropology; social housing; vulnerability; social suffering; good intentions; austerity
MDPI and ACS Style

Catela, J. “I Don’t Have the Nerve to Tell These People That I Cannot Help Them!”: Vulnerability, Ethnography, and Good Intentions. Societies 2019, 9, 84.

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