Resilience, disaster, and anthropological knowledge [DICAN]

Seumas Bates (University of Glasgow)
Susann Baez Ullberg (Uppsala University)
Kristoffer Albris (University of Copenhagen)
Kristoffer Albris and Seumas Bates
Andrew Strathern and Pamela Stewart
Start time:
23 July, 2016 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

The use of 'resilience' in disaster studies has recently become almost ubiquitous, but what this largely systemic term means for contemporary anthropology is less clear. We invite critical engagement of 'resilience' to provoke discussion of its future within anthropological disaster studies.

Long abstract:

The concept of 'resilience' has been increasingly central to disaster studies scholarship and global policy in recent years. It is a concept, however, with a long history, and was used in rural and development anthropology since at least the 1970s. Understood either as local agency and empowerment or a neoliberal technology of governance, the concept is ubiquitous at present in discussions of climate change adaptation, crisis management, and sustainable development, amongst others. In disaster studies, resilience is if not replacing, then at least accompanying the more established concept of 'vulnerability', and we contend that anthropology can contribute critically to the ongoing discussion of what resilience is and how it can aid our understanding of people's ways of dealing with risks and disaster. Most importantly perhaps, resilience is in need of a critical rethinking, as it is essentially a systemic concept, owing its origins to the ecological and material sciences. This perhaps clashes with anthropology's contention that societies and cultures are not stable, static, and predictable, but rather sui generis, dynamic, and transformative. These questions make resilience a concept in need of critical analysis, and it seems timely to centre this DICAN session on the concept so as to provoke fruitful perspectives for the future relevance of disaster resilience in relation to the anthropological production of knowledge. We therefor invite papers that focus ethnographically, historically, methodologically, theoretically and/or epistemologically on resilience from an anthropological standpoint in relation to disasters, crisis, and emergencies.

Accepted Papers: