Associate Professor of Geography
Global and Sociocultural Studies
Office: SIPA 311
My research broadly works across political geography, cultural geography, political ecology and security studies to examine the biopolitics of disaster management and resilience. Resilience has become an increasingly influential ordering principle for all manner of social and environmental governance initiatives, in fields as varied as international development, urban governance, disaster management, psycholoty and community development. Through fieldwork in Kingston, Jamaica, New York City, Miami, and the Florida Coastal Everglades, I analyze how this resilience turn creates a new terrain for political struggle. On one hand, within the interconnected, emergent, and artificial environments of the Anthropocene, resilience enables scholars and practitioners to visualize and work on the intimate, affective relations that circulate between and across humans and the non-human world. As I argue in a number of articles in journals such as the Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, Antipode, and Security Dialogue, resilience initiatives such as community-based disaster management and catastrophe insurance mobilize techniques of affective engineering to delimit our immanent potential to create new worlds. Thus, even as resilience initiatives hold out the promise of increasing sustainability and empowering individuals and communities to manage their own vulnerabilities, in practice, resilience initiatives often shore up racialized political economic inequalities that create these insecurities in the first place.
On another hand, the concept of resilience also has a degree of plasticity that enables it to be ethically and politically pliable. As I detail in my book Resilience, published by Routledge in 2018, the roots of resilience thinking lie in a modernist design aesthetics that apprehends the world as abstract objects given to functional synthesis. What exists, for resilience thinkers as well as designers, is less a question of what something is than what something can potentially do. Resilience theory revolutionizes the study of human-environment relations to the extent that it recalibrates thought and practice around a will to design: a drive or desire to synthesize otherwise distinct forms of knowledge in order to develop collaborative and cross-boundary solutions to contextually-specific problems of complexity. While a will to design fuels techniques of affective engineering, it also embeds within resilience thinking the possibilities for its own subversive transformation - for it compels us to ask what resilience itself might be able to do.
Thus, a key concern facing many scholars in geography and related fields today, and the overarching question of my own research, is how we might redesign resilience in the Anthropocene: what kinds of political projects might resilience thinking contribute to? How might we push the limits of resilience thinking to recognize other forms of suffering, insecurity and vulnerability, not just systemic vulnerabilities? What claims for recognition are various individuals and groups advancing in the name of building (or resisting) resilience? What techniques and strategies of power foreclose these claims and the possibilities for living together differently that they open? If the Anthropocene raises the question of what kind of world our politics might create, then this world-forming process will hinge on the ways we are able to redesign resilience in the Anthropocene.