Narratives of Resilience (CFP, Workshop, Durham 30 May 2012)

Narratives of Resilience Workshop: 30th May, Durham University, UK.

Workshop overview: This workshop seeks to interrogate the concept of resilience. Even after the most cursory of glances at this term, it becomes clear that ‘resilience’ is used in different ways, at different times, to different ends. That this concept should have a multiplicity of meanings perhaps shouldn’t surprise. However a key intellectual driver behind this event is the attempt to critically reflect on just what is invoked as and when any given topic has recourse to ‘resilience’. So, a definitional way of understanding resilience is not what is sought after here. Rather it is the attempt to understand what is meant when different actors use the term resilience. Having rejected the dictionary definitions of resilience, this workshop takes what might be termed the thesaurus take on the topic. We wish to understand something of the terms’ trajectory in different fields, bringing together various disciplines and concepts for which the term resilience has risen as a prominent discourse. Related to this is why open placeholders, such as resilience, assume positions of prominence. Thus the workshop aims to open up space for discussion of the varying narratives around 3 key themes:

Climate Change: Urban climate change discourse is one example of resilience becoming a central concept for academia and increasingly for policy makers. Resilience is used as a positive way to frame climate change responses, drawing together adaptive capacity and resources security. Even within environmental field resilience has disparate meanings, but as it is now being mobilised in policy and planning it is now perhaps how resilience being used rather than what it means that shapes future discourse. One recent trajectory shift in climate change adaptation literature is that resilience is not just seen as how effectively a city or community (could) bounce back but also whether these moments can be used to bounce forward.

Security: Issues of adaptive capacity and resource security also extend beyond discourse on climate change into those related to issues of security. Precarious technologies, exposed infrastructure, limited resources and energy scarcity instigate the formulation of new modalities of governance at different scales in attending to emergent geo-political tensions around vulnerability. Narratives of resilience acquire increasing strength in addressing both the anticipation and repercussions of disruptive events. Action is called to advance current narratives of resilience which question not only why and how paradigms of resilience emerged, but also how resilience is deployed, practiced and understood (as a skill, metaphor, process, attitude), in order to explore relationships between adaptive, preventive and human security.

Health: From a health perspective, resilience similarly refers to a positive process or outcome. The mechanisms underlying health resilience have been said to buffer against the detrimental effects of adversity. The term health resilience has been applied to both the individual as well as more recently being applied to the area level.  Discourses around health resilience have been attractive in terms of policy; however, what it actually translates into is not so clear. With some individuals or areas are able to resist the detrimental health effects of adversity, what prevents others from not? In this workshop we would like to try to illuminate this often vague and elusive term to really understand the ways in which it has and is being used from a health perspective.

Papers on all aspects of resilience are welcomed. Some funding may be available for travel for postgraduate students. Please send a short abstract (max. 150 words) by 30th April 2012 to Cat Button (Climate Change); Nat O’Grady (Security) or Jo Cairns (Health).

About Centre for Medical Humanities

Centre for Medical Humanities
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