Stories of the storm, resilience and governmentality: Homerisk at NEEDS-Conference, Amsterdam 21-23 March 2018

Homerisk will be presenting two full papers at The Northern European Concerence on Emergency and Disaster Studies (NEEDS) to be held in Amsterdam 21-23March 2018:

  • Linda Kvarnlöf & Erika Wall: Stories of the storm: How sense-making of household crisis preparedness is framed by an urban norm.
  • Linda Kvarnlöf & Joanna Persson: Resilience and governmentality: the ideal of the resilient subject.

Stories of the storm:

How sense-making of household crisis preparedness is framed by an urban norm

Linda Kvarnlöf (corresponding author), PhD Sociology, Department of Social Science, Mid Sweden University,                            

Erika Wall, Associate Professor in Sociology, Department of Health Science, Mid Sweden University,

Research in the field of crisis management and preparedness have shown that households play an important role in the crisis management system. For example, households have been shown to have both skills, capacities and knowledges to deal with long-term electricity outbreaks (Guldåker 2009; Heidenstrom & Kvarnlöf 2017) and contaminated drinking water (Wall & Kvarnlöf 2012). In this article we focus more specifically on the sense-making aspects of crisis preparedness by taking a closer look at how rural citizens made sense of their own crisis preparedness as it was manifested in an actual crisis: the storm Ivar of 2013. The storm Ivar hit the northern parts of Sweden in December 2013 and caused major electricity breakdowns and heavy problems in the road and train traffic due to extensive tree falls. At its most 60.000 households were without electricity and while the majority of them got their electricity back within 24 hours, over 1000 households were without electricity for more than 5 days After the storm, there were persistent problems with electricity, internet and telephone communications, heating and drinking water supply, especially in the affected rural areas. Our empirical material consists of interviews with households in the most affected area, interviews that were collected one and a half year after the storm. Our analysis shows that the households made sense of their own crisis preparedness by relating to an urban norm were they position themselves and their memories in a dichotomy of centre/periphery. Understanding themselves as rural citizens in the periphery they bring aspects of power and domination into the light, where the robustness that is often connected with rural household preparedness (Guldåker 2009; Heidenstrom & Kvarnlöf 2017) is being framed in terms of accepting ones subordination to urbanity and the urban norm. Thus, in this article we argue that household crisis preparedness needs to be understood as a manifestation of different power relations in society, and more specifically in relation to rurality and urbanity.


Guldåker, N. (2009). Krishantering, hushåll och Stormen Gudrun. Att analysera hushålls krishanteringsförmåga och sårbarheter. Lunds Universitet, Lund.

Heidenstrom, N., & Kvarnlöf, L. (2017). Coping with blackouts: A practice theory approach to household peparedness. Journal of contingencies and crisis management, 00, 1-11. doi:

Wall, E. & Kvarnlöf, L. (2012). Riskfyllt vatten. Hur individen skapar förståelse av oväntad parasitförekomst i dricksvattnet. Sociologisk forskning, 49(1):5-24.


Resilience and governmentality: the ideal of the resilient subject

 Linda Kvarnlöf (corresponding author), Risk and Crisis Research Centre, Mid Sweden University,                                           

Joanna Persson, Risk and Crisis Research Centre, Mid Sweden University,

From sociological and geographical disaster researchers (see for example Chandler 2013; Tierney 2015; Welsh 2014) the concept of disaster resilience has become increasingly criticized for being influenced by discourses and practices of neoliberalization, where private actors and citizens are now being held responsible for crisis preparedness activities that once belonged to the state or local government. As such neoliberal logics increasingly influence the field of disaster resilience, citizens are being disciplined to no longer turn to the state to secure their wellbeing, but to secure for their own safety and wellbeing (Reid 2012). In emphasizing how resilience is imposed on citizens in neoliberal discourses, resilience has also been described as a form of governmentality that discipline us to be enterprising, active and responsible citizens (Joseph 2013; Lupton 2013; Rose 1999). Rather than being an operation of (resilient) systems, the social ontology of resilience is heavily dominated by a form of governance that emphasizes individual responsibility, Joseph (2013) argues, an ontology that downplay the role of the outside world in favor for our own subjectivity, adaptability and responsible decision-making in times of risk and uncertainties. Reid (2013) even suggests that disaster resilience discourses of today is mainly concerned with constituting the ideal of the resilient subject, a subject that in order to navigate in a world characterized by complexities and uncertainties has to “accept the disastrousness of the world it lives in as a condition of partaking in that world” (p.355). In this article we turn our focus to how ordinary people respond to these discourses in their everyday lives. By analyzing household interviews where crisis preparedness is being discussed we seek to understand if and how citizens position themselves as resilient subjects. Our analysis shows that our interviewees self-govern themselves towards the ideal of resilient subjects by positioning themselves as being active, responsible and adaptive. In doing so they confirm dominating discourses on resilience and crisis preparedness. However, the interviewees do not only accept these ideals: they question them as well. Thus, “being” and positioning oneself as the resilient subject is not only a matter of adaption, this self-governance towards the resilient subject also contains aspects of reflexivity and ambivalence that needs to be further explored.


Chandler, D. (2013). Resilience and the autoelic subject: Toward a critique of the societalization of security. International Political Society, 7:210-226.

Joseph, J. (2013). Resilience as embedded neoliberalism: a governmentality approach. Resilience 1(1):38-52.

Lupton, D. (2013). Risk. Second edition. London: Routledge.

Reid, J. (2012). The disastrous and debased subject of resilience development. Dialogue, 58:67-81.

Reid, J. (2013). Interrogating the neoliberal biopolitics of the sustainable development – resilience nexus. International Political Sociology, 7:353-367.

Rose, N. (1999). Governing the soul. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tierney, K. (2015). Resilience and the Neoliberal Project: Discourses, Critiques, Practices – And Katrina. American Behavioral Scientist, 59(10):1327-1342.

Welsh, M. (2014). Resilience and responsibility: governing uncertainty in a complex world. The Geographical Journal, 180(1): 15-26.





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