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This article draws on vulnerability analysis as it emerged as a complement to classical risk analysis, and it aims at exploring its ability for nurturing risk and vulnerability governance actions. An analysis of the literature on vulnerability analysis allows us to formulate a three-fold critique: first, vulnerability analysis has been treated separately in the natural and the technological hazards fields. This separation prevents vulnerability from unleashing the full range of its potential, as it constrains appraisals into artificial categories and thus already closes down the outcomes of the analysis. Second, vulnerability analysis focused on assessment tools that are mainly quantitative, whereas qualitative appraisal is a key to assessing vulnerability in a comprehensive way and to informing policy making. Third, a systematic literature review of case studies reporting on participatory approaches to vulnerability analysis allows us to argue that participation has been important to address the above, but it remains too closed down in its approach and would benefit from embracing a more open, encompassing perspective. Therefore, we suggest rethinking vulnerability analysis as one part of a dynamic process between opening-up and closing-down strategies, in order to support a vulnerability governance framework.