Viewpoints: Resilience & Cities: Critical Thoughts on an Emerging Paradigm

shutterstock_189513023Andrea Lampis
National University of Colombia

The issue of cities and resilience has grown increasingly more animated in urban policy and academic debates (Metzger and Robert, 2013). The term has been used to inform political rhetoric as well as a heuristic and operational tool and even as a concept within the social sciences. Progressively embedded into the wider torrential flow of academic and policy-oriented discussions on climate change and global environmental change, the term ‘resilient cities’ played, for instance, a central role in last year’s 7th World Urban Forum in Medellín, Colombia.

As the current understandings of resilience are inherited from natural and social science debates, it is one of the most used yet least contested terms. Over the last decade, the use of resilience has increased at an exponential basis in the literature on climate change adaptation and disaster risk reduction (DRR). In relation to cities, the shift is so evident that the term ‘resilient cities’ has largely replaced the now old-fashioned ‘sustainable cities’.  As it happened with ‘sustainability’, the notion of ‘resilience’ exerts a sort of hegemonic dominance on those scientific discourses placed at, and originating from, the cutting-edge between natural and social sciences. Resilience permeates the way social and urban problems are framed almost everywhere.

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