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Resilience Narratives Panel, NeMLA Convention, Montreal, April 7-11, 2010
full name / name of organization:
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA)
This panel invites papers that examine the significance of resilience in contemporary culture. In a wide array of fields, including ecology, health sciences, globalization studies, business and economics, the concept of “resilience” has become increasingly significant. Referring generally to a system or organism’s capacity to “bounce back” following traumatic disruption, its contemporary currency reflects a sense of a constantly changing world. In ecology, resilience theory replaces traditional conceptions of stability or balance with models in which surprise plays a constitutive rather than an anomalous role in ecosystem development. Economists and management theorists draw on Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s theory of “black swans,” which stresses the need for planners to take account of the inevitability of “highly improbably events.” In health sciences, one aspect of resilience theory is a move away from emphasizing vulnerability and dysfunction to a more positive focus on strategies that enable individuals to cope with adverse events. In literature and popular culture, resilience is nothing new: from Tristram Shandy to Midnight’s Children to Rabbit-Proof Fence and Slumdog Millionaire, stories of survival in the face of adversity hold strong appeal, while reality TV shows like Survivor, MXC and American Idol highlight different kinds of endurance. Among the questions that might be addressed in this panel: How has the meaning or value of resilience shifted in the context of globalization? In what narrative contexts does the concept of resilience appear, and to what ends? What avenues of thought does the concept of resilience open up or close off? How might theories of resilience help to illuminate connections between complex cultural and ecological systems? To what extent does the idea of resilience mask and/or perpetuate unjust power relations (e.g. by legitimating what Naomi Klein terms disaster capitalism)? Is the interdisciplinary flexibility of resilience a measure of its critical usefulness or its ideological power?