Resilience from the ground up – emergence, anarchy and ‘response-ability’ (14575)
The 2012 National Strategy for Disaster Resilience calls for increased individual and community self-reliance in the face of disasters. Experiences with community responses to past and more recent bushfires in Victoria indicate that this aim requires empowered communities able to act flexibly and autonomously. Yet, our research suggests that authorities are sometimes reluctant to relinquish control and actual community self-organisation tends to be read as chaos or anarchy. In this paper, we consider how the concept of anarchy may help us understand the practice of resilience as it unfolds on the ground. First, we think about anarchy from the perspective of emergence and complex systems theories as self-organisation outside central authority. Resilience, we argue, can be understood as an emergent property of complex socio-ecological systems in bushfire landscapes and requires collaborative, non-hierarchical and dialogical forms of knowledge and governance.
Second, exploring how resilience emerges from the ground up, we observe that responses to bushfire risk may not fit the expected rational/techno-scientific model and set of rules fixed by the arche; instead they may be expressed as more ‘an-archic’ or hybrid reactions, mixing rational calculus with emotions, affect, socio-ecological memory and other ways of doing and knowing. We argue that, if acknowledged properly, these responses can contribute to a form of ‘response-ability’, i.e. a capacity and willingness to respond, adapt, learn or sometimes resist in ways that ‘draw others [humans and nonhumans] into a relationship’ (Haraway 2008 cited in Lorimer 2012, p.598). We suggest that such a relational ethics has the potential to feed into general resilience, an ability to live responsively/adaptively in bushfire landscapes that extends well beyond specified disaster risk resilience. Overall, we argue, while emergence, self-organisation and ‘response-ability’ may seem anarchic, messy, and time- and resource consuming to governments, they are integral to resilience.