, Volume 67, Issue 1, pp 61-76

Resilience: a capacity and a myth: findings from an in-depth case study in disaster management research

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Abstract

The discussion surrounding resilience to natural hazards and disasters has advanced considerably within the last years. It ranges from ecological to social systems and also covers some socio-ecological spaces in-between. Yet, although the discussion is broad and multifaceted, a common theme runs through most approaches to resilience: Resilience is defined as a system’s capacity to adapt to or respond to singular, unique and most often radically surprising events. This paper seeks to shed some light on a different aspect of resilience; its constructionist dimension. For doing this, it introduces the ‘myth of resilience, which not only considers the functional aspects of resilience (i.e. actors capacities), but also how actors make retrospectively sense of the radically surprising discovery of something entirely unknown. The paper will argue that the ‘myth of resilience’ may become a powerful worldview that enables actors to define what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’, as it may be used as a very intriguing way of changing, creating and consolidating power relations; at least this is the insight a study on disaster management reveals. The case study was conducted in a municipality of a city located in the State of Saxony Germany, which was severely affected by the 2002 August flood. The paper ends with outlining implications for the discussion on resilience.