Unspectacular Events: Researching vulnerability through the localised and particular

Page, Tiffany. 2016. Unspectacular Events: Researching vulnerability through the localised and particular. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis investigates vulnerability as a concept and as a methodological practice, using a localised
analysis as a feminist methodological approach. Drawing from archival texts in the form of media
reports published online between 2014 and 2015, it provides an in-depth case study analysis of two
individuals who set fire to their bodies, or what is commonly referred to as self-immolation. These are
the stories of Leorsin Seemanpillai, a Sri Lankan man who sought asylum in Australia in 2013, and
Mariam al-Khawli, a Syrian woman who along with her husband and four children registered as
refugees in Lebanon in 2012 after the civil war began in Syria. The tensions in modes of telling stories
and challenges in cross-cultural scholarship led me to outline the core components of a vulnerable
methodology. This involves discussing what it might mean to explicate and recognise vulnerability in

The thesis works with the tension of vulnerability being a universal condition, and the way it is
differentially experienced and distributed across particular bodies. As a response, it proposes
examining elements or qualities of vulnerability that might emerge as people make lives within located
contexts and conditions through altering spatial and temporal registers. This approach focuses on the
everyday activities of Seemanpillai and Khawli and situates these alongside, rather than in response
to, macro level political systems. By doing so the terms of other elements of subjectivity—agency,
intention and action—become unstable. As means to examine this, the thesis proposes the concept of
“micro events” to distinguish the space, time and pace of activities drawn out through a longer arc of
time. This thesis argues that micro events help to illustrate how elements of vulnerability are
interwoven into the textures and materiality of the event’s context and conditions, and the ways in
which individuals live within both spectacular and unspectacular, ongoing temporalities.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):



Vulnerability, self-immolation, ethics, transnational research, methodology, uncertainty, time, refugee, event

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Centre for Cultural Studies (1998-2017)


31 July 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

08 Aug 2016 09:57

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:40



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