Understanding Vulnerability: From Categories to Experiences of Young Congolese People in Uganda

This article problematises the ‘vulnerables’ category that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees applies to groups of refugees. Drawing on 9 months of qualitative research with young Congolese refugees in Uganda, it presents research subjects’ self-identification and lived realities that do not correspond to the homogenous, fixed ‘vulnerables’ ideal. Moreover, it argues that the ‘vulnerables’ categorisation approach can provoke a number of counter- productive effects, including a focus on symptoms rather than causes, inflated numbers of ‘vulnerables’ and undermining indigenous support structures. An alternative approach that interrogates and addresses the contextual and relational aspects of vulnerability is proposed.