Agency, Affect, and the Immunological Politics of Disaster Resilience

Kevin Grove

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122 Citations (SciVal)


Resilience has become a foundational component within disaster management policy frameworks concerned with building ‘cultures of safety’ among vulnerable populations. These attempts at social engineering are justified through a discourse of agency and empowerment, in which resilience programming is said to enable marginalized groups to become self-sufficient and manage their own vulnerabilities. This paper seeks to destabilize this political imaginary through a critical analysis of participatory disaster resilience programming in Jamaica. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with Jamaica's national disaster management agency, I argue that resilience operates through an affective economy of fear, hope, and confidence that enacts an immunitary biopolitics. The object of this biopolitics is excess adaptive capacity that results from affective relations between participants and their socioecological milieu. Participatory techniques such as transect walks, focus groups, and education programs attempt to encode and manipulate these affective relations in order to construct an artificial and depoliticized form of adaptive capacity that does not threaten neoliberal order. Recognizing the immunological logic at the heart of disaster resilience opens up new ethical and political imperatives in disaster management that value adaptive capacity as the vital force of new socioecological futures, rather than as an object of governmental intervention and control
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-256
Number of pages17
JournalEnvironment and Planning D: Society and Space
Issue number2
Early online date01 Jan 2014
Publication statusPublished - 01 Apr 2014


  • resilience
  • affect
  • agency
  • assemblage
  • adaptive capacity
  • biopolitics
  • immunization


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