Skip to main navigation menu Skip to main content Skip to site footer

Position Pieces

Vol 11 No 1: The Immune System, Immunity and Immune Logics

Relations as Immunity: Building Community Resilience

June 28, 2022
March 15, 2024


Resilience—a term that originated in mathematical ecology—now commonly refers to the ability to thrive in the face of trauma and adversity. This Position Piece reflects on both the charisma and political lability of resilience in the early 21st century. On the one hand, resilience is easily compatible with neoliberal discourses that demand that individuals protect themselves in the absence of state or community support. On the other hand, resilience can be an important corrective to narratives about the damage caused by trauma, focusing attention on our innate ability to heal. We argue that the ambivalence of resilience requires theoretical and empirical attention to both the wider appeal of the term and the situated definitions deployed by diverse actors. In particular, we look at the rise of the term ‘community resilience’ popularised by academics, community leaders, and activists, which seeks to avoid the pitfalls of the neoliberal definition of resilience and argues that strong interpersonal relationships can support health equity. Despite the ambivalence of resilience, we find “community resilience” to be promising in a time when collective visions of health and immunity are desperately needed.