The Business of Resilience: Philanthropy, Partnerships, and Politics

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Primeau, Phillip Andre




The concept of resilience has entered into the lexicon of the everyday while enjoying an ever-expanding range of applications and associations within the public, private, and philanthropic sectors. This dissertation critically engages resilience discourses and practices by tracing a network of relations composed of both people and things. Taking cues from Actor-Network Theory, I bring into focus a latticework of actants that has enabled the concept of resilience to function, be mobile, expand and stabilize into what I call 'philanthropic resilience' and 'financialized resilience'. I offer a novel reading of the career of resilience by shedding light on how the concept has been deployed across a diverse set of fields and assemblages. To illustrate key features of the philanthropic form of resilience I turn to the Rockefeller Foundation's 100 Resilient Cities initiative (100RC), to date the most expansive experiment in incubating city resilience interventions. I show how the 100RC successfully grew a resilience network through philanthropic partnerships, how it created the Chief Resilience Officer position as an embedded municipal actor, and how it enrolled a selective set of actants tasked with solving the problem of resilience valuation theoretically and practically. I argue that the idea of 'resilience dividends', once confined to the philanthropic sector, has been incorporated into the financialized resilience form through speculative investment products such as bonds. I contend that resilience bonds, along with the issuance of profit-generating climate resilience bonds, show that the concept of resilience has materialized in powerful social practices beyond metaphorical and metonymical applications. This dissertation offers theoretical and empirical lenses to better parse the political and social ramifications of the business of resilience.


Social Structure and Development
Public and Social Welfare
Public Administration




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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