Disaster and the lived politics of the resilient city
The deployment of the resilient city concept remains divided between those who see resilience as a set of (bottom-up) enabling capacities, and those who accuse it of (top- down) post-political tendencies that normalize the status quo and cast off the vulnerable. This paper offers a conceptual framework that overcomes this binary. We argue that a critical and trans-historical deployment of resilience to the actually-existing conditions of urban crisis can re-politicize the very conditions necessitating cities to be resilient. Politicizing the lived experiences of resilience draws attention to the relationality and agency of resilience: how resilience is constructed, negotiated and resourced, at which temporal and spatial scales, and with what political antecedents, consequences and power struggles. The paper considers the lived politics of the resilient city juxtaposed across two purposefully disparate case studies: Leningrad during the 872-day siege in 1941-1944, and New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This unorthodox comparison both transgresses clear-cut ideological and epistemological conventions and develops a complex picture of how resilience unfolds in reality. These tragic events show a range of conditions that incorporated state-imposed cast-off top-down resilience and, in response, individual and community-led bottom-up resilience. We demonstrate the pre-eminent role of the state in how both disaster and resilience are constructed and (mis)managed, but also how cast-off resilience compels citizens and communities to activate mechanisms for negotiating disaster and recovery, generating a co-constituted resilience of cities and individuals.