Beyond expectations of resilience: towards language of care

Malaka M B Shwaikh*

*Corresponding author for this work

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This article draws from hundreds of interviews and conversations with survivors of wars and violence in different contexts to show the limits of resilience. I bring together stories from my experiences talking with survivors across many countries – including Palestine, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Qatar, Jordan, and the United Kingdom. Through employing ethnographic and autoethnographic methods, I argue that resilience expectations may impose supernatural coping mechanisms on communities struggling with adversities, romanticise them as exemplary in enduring injustices, obscure their humanity, and normalise (structural) violence they continue to experience or reduce its severity. I question who benefits from an overemphasis on and financing of resilience, especially within (international) development organisations. The communities I spoke with all contend that resilience is not just a useless word but also a discourse, a way of thinking, and a policy implemented during difficulties. They emphasise that the cheap (re)production of them as extraordinary people, who are expected to endure suffering, is violent because it places the onus on them to be resilient on issues beyond their control while, often, ignoring layers of (structural) violence and subsequent traumas they face. As an alternative discourse to resilience, I propose a collective and caring approach that deals with root causes of violence instead of ignoring them.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberksad030
Number of pages13
JournalGlobal Studies Quarterly
Issue number2
Early online date15 Jun 2023
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jun 2023


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