Resilient Matters




How to Cite

Wilson, M. J., & Arvanitakis, J. (2013). Resilient Matters. M/C Journal, 16(5).
Vol. 16 No. 5 (2013): resilient
Published 2013-10-13

To be or not to be resilient? That is no longer the question. For many years, being resilient or non-resilient, as it were, represented the dominant framework in resilience theory emerging out of the psychological sciences. As research into the elusive concept progressed, the theoretical and empirical emphasis shifted away from essentialising criteria and individualistic understandings of the ‘resilience construct’ to more ‘everyday’ and socially interactive aspects of resilience in our world. Although there is arguably a hangover effect attributable to the longstanding psychological science regime, resilience research appears to have moved beyond an understanding of the phenomenon as a discrete trait or defining characteristic of ‘resilient’ or ‘invulnerable’ individuals, communities, economies or environmental systems. While there is a distinctly personal component to the accumulation of resilience, its formation and distribution is now seen as traversing and intersecting multiple social categories, cultural contexts and geographic boundaries. In this edition of M/C Journal, the seventeen contributing authors have explored the concept of resilience and what in means to be ‘resilient’ in a variety of local, national and international contexts. The common thread running through each article relates to the interactive and iterative nature of resilience, as extending into and circulating within our diverse social worlds. So let’s get into it.

In the feature article, Michael John Wilson and James Arvanitakis provide an overview of resilience research to date. They propose an expanded and expanding perspective on resilience, one that accounts for the accumulative and relational dimensions of the phenomenon. For them, resilience is best conceived as a meta-capacity, which is closely tied to the formation and expression of an active and enabling hope. As a result of broad scale movements in human mobility, climate change and global economic integration, it is their contention that resilience, as an analytical framework and object of inquiry, will gain increasing attention and relevance as we move further into the 21st century.  

In Resilience and Refugees, David Eades proposes a continuum for understanding refugees’ experiences from individualised trauma to posttraumatic growth. Calling for a thicker description of resilience that incorporates a positive orientation towards health and growth, David contends that the re-prioritisation of associated therapeutic discourse must be informed by the recognition of refugee populations’ worldviews. Following on from David’s piece, Neroli Colvin’s article Resettlement as Rebirth presents a novel take on refugees’ transitional experiences of migration and resettlement. She does so by exploring the symbolic and physical parallels between refugees’ separation from their ‘mother country’, and the biological birthing process involving separation of mother and infant. Neroli makes the valuable point that successful resettlement can involve multiple rebirths, requiring reserves of hope, imagination, energy, and above all, resilience.  

Following this, Dorothy Bottrell’s article investigates the centrality of resilience-building and resilient practices for neoliberal social policy concerned with the quality of people’s lives affected by, and forged within, conditions of marginalisation and disadvantage.

Words have the power to empower and subjugate. In his article, Queer Youth Resilience, Rob Cover critiques the discourse of hope and hopelessness in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) suicide representation. He develops the important idea that – as with processes of growing up – resilience and vulnerability are informed and formed by a series of transitions, as well as expected and unexpected cultural encounters and circumstantial changes. With similarities to the term ‘queer’, ‘crip’ or ‘cripple’ has been re-appropriated and inscribed with new meaning (and potential) by persons living with a disability. In their article “Cripping” Resilience, Emily Hutcheon and Gregor Wolbring propose the concept of “‘cripping’ resilience” as a way of augmenting traditional conceptions of resilience with additional political and analytical power. Following on from the work by Emily and Gregor, Katie Ellis explores the idea of a politics of resilience in a disabling world. Her contribution investigates the role of resilience within critical disability studies and in particular, popular understandings of disability and the emergence of a disability culture.

In Reproductive Resiliency, Katherine Reilly and Ayumi Goto share with us a deeply moving piece that explores the phenomenon of resilience in relation to their personal experiences with reproductive loss. 

Drawing on individual carers’ narratives, Timothy Broady offers an account of the various factors and practices that promote or constrain carers’ wellbeing. In moving beyond an understanding of carers’ as simply ‘coping’ with their caring responsibilities, Timothy proposes a more nuanced method for interpreting carers’ varied experiences and attitudes towards caring.

In developing the term “discursive” resilience, Andrew Munro takes us on a journey back to the early 2000s to explore what it meant to be ‘resilient’ in the light of a sensational homicide case, an economic crisis and a deeply unstable political landscape in Argentina.  

David Torres and Jeremy Fyke, in their article Communicating Resilience, challenge current concepts of optimism, hope and resilience in terms of leadership perspectives and work contexts. They propose a ‘discursive leadership orientation’ in an effort to highlight the communicative and social construction of resilience.  

In Building Resilient Communities, Karey Harrison performs a metaphoric analysis to examine the differences between complex adaptive systems models of resilience in the ecology and climate change literature, and the linear ‘equilibrium’ models, which have come to dominate resilience research in psychology and economics.

In her article Prognosis Critical, Michele Grossman reflects on the potential for protective impacts resulting from a greater recognition of ethnocultural diversity and social cohesion, and the benefits this can have in terms of strengthening a community’s resilience to threats of national security, emergency management and disaster response. In drawing on the storytelling practice of Aunty Hilda Wilson, Ngarrindjeri Aboriginal elder, Karen Hughes explicates the subjective aspects of resilience, agency and resistance embedded within Indigenous knowledge systems of relationality, kin and work. In Anxious settler belonging, Lisa Slater examines the potential for creating resilient postcolonial subjects. In particular, she identifies the political and ethical potential of affects, in this case, anxiety or anxiousness, as potential utilities for bringing to the surface and confronting the continence of colonial power relations in Australia.

In his historical analysis of events in the rural Norwegian community of Volda in the late 1880s, Roy Krøvel examines how the struggle for recognition, acts of resistance against stigmatisation and ideological polarisation can provide insights and opportunities for the formation of social learning and collective creativity in resilient communities.

Rounding out the issue, Nicolas Marquis adopts an interdisciplinary perspective to investigate how self-help readers make use of the “language game” of resilience. In particular, he examines how the common sense notion of resilience is mobilised as a cultural resource by readers of self-helps books and why this understanding of resilience sheds light on some important characteristics of liberal-individualistic societies, when compared with traditional societies.


We would like to thank all the contributing authors, the peer reviewers who took time out of their busy schedules to review one or more articles, Axel Bruns, and our resilient copy editors, Gregory Wilson and Jayde Cahir.

Author Biography

Michael John Wilson, Learning and Teaching Centre, Macquarie University

Michael completed his PhD in 2012 at the Institute for Culture and Society, University of Western Sydney. His thesis, 'Accumulating Resilience: an investigation of the migration and resettlement experiences of Sudanese young people in Western Sydney', explored the multi-dimensional phenomenon of resilience and related sociocultural concepts of hope, affect, belonging and resourcefulness. He is interested in questions of equity, social inclusion and cultural diversity in the lives of disadvantaged groups.