Reconstructing Resilience: Analyzing the Social Construction of Resilience after Tropical Cyclone Pam in Vanuatu

Authors: Foley Pfalzgraf*, University of Hawaii
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Pacific Islands
Keywords: Resilience, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, Climate Change, Disaster
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Regency Ballroom, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Following Tropical Cyclone Pam (2015) in Vanuatu, institutions and communities undertook a process to build resilience across affected communities. This project was timely and pressing due to concerns about compounding and escalating impacts of climate change across the archipelago. However, the dominant discourse of resilience struggles to incorporate a nuanced understanding of the social construction of vulnerability and non-western knowledge. In light of these shortcomings it is valuable to interrogate how resilience was mobilized in Tropical Cyclone Pam recovery and how this intersects with questions of power and knowledge production. Qualitative interviews, archival research, and participant observation were used to situate resilience among different actors. The government, nonprofit organizations, and community leaders were included to elucidate how resilience is negotiated from the local to national scale. Notably, the government viewed resilience as independence and nonprofits relied on best practices and development interventions, while communities emphasized traditional ecological knowledge. These findings have critical implications for community recovery and future adaptive capacity. In this presentation I demonstrate the construction and contestation of resilience as well as the potential for traditional ecological knowledge to inform a more nuanced, place-based resilience. By integrating traditional ecological knowledge of resilience into climate change research, these insights contribute to emerging scholarship on local-scale impacts and adaptations to climate change and post-disaster recovery.

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