The jurisprudence of universal subjectivity: COVID-19, vulnerability and housing

International Journal of Discrimination and the Law 21 (3):254-271 (2021)
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Abstract

Drawing upon Martha Fineman’s vulnerability theory, the paper argues that the legal claims of homeless appellants before and during the COVID-19 pandemic illustrate our universal vulnerability which stems from the essential, life-sustaining activities flowing from the ontological status of the human body. By recognizing that housing availability has constitutional significance because it provides for life-sustaining activities such as sleeping, eating and lying down, I argue that the legal rationale reviewed in the paper underscores the empirical, ontological reality of the body as the basis for a jurisprudence of universal vulnerability. By tracing the constitutional basis of this jurisprudence from Right to Travel to Eighth Amendment grounds during COVID-19, the paper outlines a distinct legal paradigm for understanding vulnerability in its universal, constant and essential form – one of the central premises of vulnerability theory.

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Kevin Jobe
University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

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