Editorial to the special section "Geographies of Vulnerability and Resilience - Critical Explorations"

Release date: 2016-12

In the past 30 years the concept of vulnerability has been an important paradigm in human geography and development studies. Vulnerability analyses have significantly enhanced our understanding of everyday life under conditions of poverty and food insecurity in the Global South and of people's capacities to live with risks and natural hazards. A vulnerability perspective has also been adopted by practitioners and served as a guiding principle for policies and development interventions. In the last ten years, we have, however, witnessed a paradigm shift from vulnerability to resilience, a concept that has its roots in ecosystems science and psychology. Some have argued that resilience and vulnerability are like two sides of a coin and are thus compatible. For many, resilience thinking seems to be more positive and promising. Others argue that the systems perspective of resilience thinking cannot fully capture the everyday life experiences of poverty, hunger and exploitation and people's creative responses to crises, which stands at the center of vulnerability research. Some have also argued that resilience thinking is largely apolitical and uncritical of power structures at different scales, and thus plead for an integration of social theories and politics in the concept. With this special section we would like to take stock of the debate and reconsider some of the basic conceptual questions in vulnerability and resilience research. What does the paradigm shift from vulnerability to resilience mean for doing research? What roles do social theories, political discourses and critical thinking play for each concept? Where is the geography in contemporary vulnerability and resilience research? And what is the role of human agency for vulnerability and resilience?

Please find the article here.