The Logic of Resilience as Neoliberal Governmentality Informing Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey

Is Cuban Resilience Strategy (CRS) an Alternative?


  • Khaled Al-Kassimi McMaster University



Despite the ascendancy of the concept of resilience in political sociology, its criticism has also expanded. In both theory and practice, this paper seeks to unpack and critically explore how resilience as embedded neoliberal governmentality permeates U.S. research in issues relating to natural environmental disasters. By highlighting the neoliberal (resilient) politics of recovery situated in two environmental disasters – Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Harvey – this paper highlights that both pre-disaster and post-disaster recovery realities contrast starkly with the “high-minded” claims of resilience being a form of “emancipatory” resistance. Rather than being identified as natural disasters, both hurricanes are identified as voluntary failures revealing how resilience discourse was used to masquerade opportunity, subjugation, exploitation, and capital accumulation by privatepublic/state-nonstate actors. Both hurricane responses highlight that resilience embedded with a laissez-faire logic privileged types of solutions that directly hindered affected communities “bouncing back”. The third and final sections analyze an alternative conceptualization of resilience pioneered in Cuba which the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction (UNISDR) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) encouraged risk-reduction experts to emulate as a way forward in responding to natural environmental disasters.