Humanities for resilience - forming an alternative framework for international development aid

This project is led by Dr Katherine Brown (Theology & Religion) and Dr Sara Fregonese (Geography) and is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council Network Grant.

Katherine and Sara’s project goes beyond the disciplinary boundaries of religious studies and human geography and seeks to explore how the arts and humanities can contribute to understandings and practices of ‘resilience’ in Lower and Middle Income Countries.

Currently, the priority of international development aid and policies on resilience is on developing capacities in communities, focusing on preserving the status quo and biological life. However, Katherine and Sara (along with NGOs and other researchers) view this limited framework as a lost opportunity to protect and enable people to be the primary agents of their own responses to crisis. They argue that if development and sustainability are to mean anything, they must include an understanding of how communities endure, abide, and even flourish in times of adversity; resilience is at the heart of these activities. Resilience is more than developing capacities to absorb shocks to communities, or systems, but is also about embedding resilience practices and dynamics in everyday activities

The AHRC Humanities for Resilience network responds to such concerns and aims to address how resilience can be fostered by better understanding what makes 'ways of living' resilient. Focusing on this approach, the network is an exploration of the shared human experience of resilience; this perspective also prioritises 'bottom-up' formations of resilience. The aim is to understand which resilient experiences, interactions, moves, and actions 'create value' in diverse and complex social worlds.

The network is global in its reach and activities, with workshops being held in the UK, Zambia, Pakistan and Lebanon, and with participants (both academic and non-academic) coming from Europe, North and South America, Africa, the Indian Subcontinent, and the Middle East. The 18-month project starts in January 2018.