The Emancipatory Potential of Resilience

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Dokumentart: Dissertation
Date: 2023-04-03
Language: English
Faculty: 6 Wirtschafts- und Sozialwissenschaftliche Fakultät
Department: Politikwissenschaft
Advisor: Diez, Thomas (Prof. Dr.)
Day of Oral Examination: 2022-10-27
DDC Classifikation: 300 - Social sciences, sociology and anthropology
320 - Political science
Keywords: Resilienz , Sicherheit , Emanzipation , Ethik , Katastrophenschutz
Other Keywords:
Disaster Management
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Resilience has risen to prominence in various policy fields during the last decades. Many security policies refer to resilience as either a demand or an ideal. At the same time, resilience has been criticised for responsibilizing the individual while legitimating the withdrawal of the state. Notwithstanding the importance of these critical voices, my thesis with the title „The Emancipatory Potential of Resilience“ seeks to approach resilience from a different angle. Rather than engaging with more or less problematic resilience policies, the thesis analyses appearances of resilient behaviours in the absence of any political demands to become resilient. The thesis analyses the German disaster management system, as it has been state-centric and only included resilience very recently into its vocabulary. Despite the plain absence of the notion itself, the same effects that resilience is criticised for in other areas are equally observable in German disaster management practices. These effects are mostly the result of state authorities’ selection biases in the recognition of societal needs. Since resilience refers to the importance capacities to adapt to a changing environment, it is well-suited to address exactly those societal needs, as well as make them the starting point for a more general debate around appropriate capacities to be able to adapt to disaster situations. In the thesis, I argue that the emancipatory potential of resilience lies in its potential to visibilise needs that have been neglected so far. Using the Frankfurt School’s method of immanent critique, the thesis seeks to reveal concrete utopias of resilience and thereby follows the increasing number of calls to think resilience differently. I do so in five spotlights that make up the core of this publication-based thesis. Each spotlight is either a published article or book chapter. The first spotlight “From Lisbon to Sendai: Responsibilities in international disaster management” traces the development of assignments of responsibility in the international disaster management system from the early 1960’s to the 2015’s UN Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. Analysing these shifts and developments in the distribution of responsibility helps to understand how resilience has gained momentum in (international) disaster management. The second spotlight “Bridging the Gap between vulnerable groups and vulnerable situations: Towards an integrative perspective on vulnerability for Disaster Risk Reduction” is a background paper for the 2022 UN Global Assessment Report for Disaster Risk Reduction and seeks to reconcile different understandings of vulnerability. The third spotlight of the thesis, “Building instead of imposing resilience: Revisiting the relationship be-tween resilience and the state”, turns to the German disaster management system and analyses the articulated demand to become adaptable in in the absence of the term “resilience”. It demonstrates that resilience needs to be fostered rather than demanded, if it is to produce any positive effects. The fourth spotlight “Resilience unwanted: Between control and cooperation in disaster response” deals with manifestations of resilience in form of civil societal support structures. It analyses the case of the 2013 Elbe flood in the federal state of Saxony and how citizens have proven to be resilient by supporting, paralleling and at times even counteracting public disaster management efforts. The fifth and last spotlight “Visibilising the neglected: The emancipatory potential of resilience” combines the findings of the previous spotlights. It seeks to qualify under what criteria a shift in responsibility can be emancipatory and how a state-centric disaster management system – such as the German system – can take advantage of resilience-thinking to make more needs visible, and thereby negotiable. The endeavour of tracing the emancipatory potential of resilience in the security field tells us more about security politics, its assumptions and notions of normality than it tells us about resilience. The main aim of this thesis is not to provide an authoritative definition of resilience, but rather to irritate our thinking and our certainties about resilience. This can only be a first step, however. The actual challenge is now to gauge this potential and maybe even to realise it in form of emancipatory politics of protection.

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