Call for Papers


Political Action, Resilience and Solidarity 

An inter-disciplinary, inter-institutional workshop 

Event organisers: 

Nicholas Michelsen, King's College London 
Wanda Vrasti, University of Humboldt 

In association with: 
Centre of Integrated Research in Risk and Resilience, King's College London. 
Research Centre in International Relations, Department of War Studies, King's 
College London. 
Centre for Citizenship, Identities and Governance, The Open University 
Centre for the Study of Democracy, Westminster University. 

Location: King's College London. 

Thursday the 18th and Friday the 19th of September 2014 

The concept of resilience first appeared as a means to articulate how complex ecosystems 
are able to meet the challenges of radically shifting environmental conditions whilst 
retaining their key functionalities. Thinking in terms of resilience is deemed to offer an 
advance on previous approaches to risk-management in that it is concerned with fostering 
the adaptive capacities that are innate to any system. Inasmuch as resilience allows a 
system, community or agent's inherent openness to the unexpected to become a source of 
beneficiary adaptation, it has garnered attention in a wide number of fields, from socio-
ecological systems to psychology, disaster risk management, urban and national 
infrastructure design, post-conflict development and public health planning. Across these 
fields, the concept of resilience increasingly frames the possibility of spaces for policy action, 
offering a heuristic device under which the defining problems of our era of supposedly 
unalloyed uncertainty and insecurity can be addressed. 

Contemporary debates around resilience have centred on the political content of the 
concept. Whereas in socio-ecological literatures, the concept has retained a broadly positive 
connotation, as a means to conceptualise sustainable resource management, in its wider 
usage, resilience is subject to critique as informing a conservative, indeed pacifying 
rationality of governance ("resilience from above"). Resilience seems to bypass any 
suggestion that extant (social, economic, political and ecological) circumstances might be 
subjected to a wider or structural critique. 

In this context, resilience is often contrasted with explicitly political concepts like solidarity. 
Whereas resilience seems to suggest adaptation and immunisation in the face of complex 
unalterable forces, solidarity offers a means to challenge and alter extant conditions. By 
contrast with resilience, however, the concept of solidarity suffers from significant under-
theorisation in contemporary literatures. What does it mean to "act in solidarity" with 
something or someone, and how is this related to the performance of political subjectivity 
or citizenship? What does it mean for activists in Tahrir Square to stand in solidarity with 
government employees in Madison? We suspect that the concept must be more than just 
an affective unification of a group of otherwise disparate actors. Indeed, rather than being 
diametrically opposed concepts, solidarity seems a precondition for community resilience 
("resilience from below"). In this sense, perhaps it is at the intersection of solidarity and 
resilience that effective political action can occur. 

Equally important is the intersection between resilience and democratic citizenship. 
Resilience often refers to policies that aim at making citizens able to cope with sudden 
changes in their life through, among other methods, taking therapeutic measures; informing 
them what to do in times of disaster; and supporting critical infrastructure so important 
activities can continue. Yet, this understanding of resilience eschews the idea that coping 
with depletion of rights requires new rights claims. Rights to housing, care, political 
participation, and so on, are mostly ignored. Resilience policies become in their effects 
'managerial'. They tell citizens what to do and they avoid the fundamental democratic 
questions about what social, economic and political rights and lives citizens demand. At this 
intersection between rights claims and resilience, resilience from below -- what people do in 
response to crises and precarity – attains democratic political rather than managerial 

This collaborative inter-institutional and interdisciplinary workshop is concerned to examine 
and problematize the distinct genealogies and interaction of the concepts of Resilience, 
Solidarity, and democratic citizenship with particular focus on the problem of political action 
or agency. It aims to explore the ways in which community resilience may be associated or 
contrasted with the mechanisms underpinning social and political solidarity and with new 
rights claims. A number of related concepts, such as identity, acts of citizenship and political 
agency, are clearly of relevance in this context. As such, we invite paper abstracts of no 
more than 300 words that speak to the workshop theme in the broadest sense. Possible 
areas for discussion include: 




Conflict and post-conflict reconstruction 




Group psychology 

Identity politics 

Public health 

Political theory/philosophy 

Radical Democracy 

Revolutionary politics 

Social Movements 

Socio-ecological systems 

Transformative communities 

Urban Infrastructure 

Please send paper abstracts by June 20th to [log in to unmask]

David Chandler, Professor of International Relations, Director of the Centre for the Study of Democracy, Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Westminster, 32-38 Wells Street, London, W1T 3UW. Tel: ++44 (0)776 525 3073. 
Journal Editor, Resilience: International Policies, Practices and Discourses:
Personal website: 
Twitter: @DavidCh27992090

The University of Westminster is a charity and a company limited by guarantee. Registration number: 977818 England. Registered Office: 309 Regent Street, London W1B 2UW.

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