Resilience and Collective Action Versus the Empowered Neoliberal Self

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA 2023- Dr. Matthew Ussia - Duquesne University
contact email: 

Resilience and Collective Action Versus the Empowered Neoliberal Self 

[A Panel at NeMLA 2023, Niagra Falls, NY: March 23-26, 2023]

Public and private life in the 21st Century hurts. Our daily doomscroll informs us that our sense of belonging in the world, our values as scholars are fading away from the larger public discourse. Mark Fisher’s notion of “the slow cancellation of the future” echoes a collective feeling that doing just about anything is an act of tremendous resilience. The question is how does resilience echo neoliberalism or reject it?

Neoliberalism got us into this through what David Harvey calls “the myth of the empowered individual.” Through this myth, people have been sold austerity and the degradation of democracy under the promise that we can be the winners. The “Survivor myth” that we can outwit, outplay, outlast everyone is a stark contradiction to our reality. The maw of neoliberalism can only be defeated by organizing toward collective action. While algorithmic filter bubbles threaten to separate us, it’s the kind of virtual relationships Kwame Anthony Appiah outlines in Cosmopolitanism that must be built if we are to move beyond our contemporary malaise.

However, that is easier said than done, considering the power of the mythology of the empowered individual to draw individuals further away from the kind of social organizing this historical moment calls for. This panel is looking for explorations of 21st century works that explore the following questions:

How can the mythology of the empowered individual be resisted rather than celebrated? What are the barriers to collective action? How are we caught in what Lauren Berlant calls “cruel optimism”, an emotional attachment to previous modes of living and mythologies that become an obstacle to our wellbeing? Where is the line between ideas of resilience and toxic discourses around “grit”?


Abstracts can only be submitted via the NeMLA Website:

The Deadline is September 30th.  Questions: