Violent Resilience and Genres of Resistance  


Comparative Literature / Global Anglophone

Vighnesh Hampapura (University of Oxford)

To elaborate on resilience as the manifold ways in which we pull through precarious times and crises is a critical exercise. It is equally urgent, as a part of that enterprise, to interrogate that very rhetoric of resilience: what are its contours; upon whom is it deployed; who does it benefit; and what does it facilitate? ‘Resilience’ as a concept appears to circumvent narratives of unfairness, shifting focus from structural inequalities and failures to individual responsivity, demanding the development of modes of internal immunity and recovery. This notion would not otherwise have the political valence it has had historically, used as it is in the contexts of war and police forces to create tough men (the gendering is deliberate), and increasingly employed to foster an idea of “good” citizens who rather than criticizing the state would cultivate better shock absorbers. It is this paradox of resilience, seemingly about managing different forms of trauma but also about buttressing normative institutions of violence, that this session hopes to explore.

Papers can consider: resilience as the affective form in the bildung (including neoliberal development); the slippery slope of resilience-disregard-denial; the relationship of ‘resilience’ to structures of family, workspace (including the university), medicine, warfare, and the nation (to name a few); ‘resilience’ undercutting interpersonal and institutional means of support, redressal, and solidarity; the valorization of resilience in proliferating self-help narratives; the related censure of failure; the sense of belonging ‘resilience’ can provide. In what ways does resilience resist resistance? What other affective genres does resilience undermine: complaint, lament, outburst, even disengagement, quietness? Can we also think about these questions in literary criticism that idealizes resilient characters?

Equally, papers could contemplate the genres that resist resilience, exploring the disintegration of ‘resilience’ and its failed promises. What also about the refusal of resilience as a valid mode of persistence: with what other genres do people bear their cluster of wounds?

This session welcomes papers from all periods, cultures, and languages.

This session interrogates the conceptual and historical deployment of ‘resilience’, in different cultural narratives, to redirect focus from structural trauma and failures to individual responsivity, the cultivation of internal immunity and recovery. Equally, it calls for imagining other genres of persistence that are sidelined by the rhetoric of resilience.