Talia R Gordon
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationChicago, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9817
Approve DateApril 30, 2019
Project TitleGordon, Talia (Chicago, U. of) "Why Resilience Now? Crisis, Adversity, and Collective life in the Post-Welfare United States"
TALIA R. GORDON, then a graduate student at the University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, received funding in April 2019 to aid research on “Why Resilience Now? Cultural Ideologies of Responsibility and Collective Life in the Postwelfare United States,” supervised by Dr. Eugene Raikhel. Set in the former industrial heartland of the United States, this project explored ethnographically how conditions of adversity are remaking American cultural ideologies of responsibility in the aftermath of social welfare retrenchment. During this period of increasing inequality in the US, “resilience” has become a popular concept for understanding the effects of adversity on individuals and communities. Resilience-building strategies epitomize a paradox of postwelfare-era social life, wherein local populations are not only required by neoliberal doctrines to be economically self-sufficient in the face of growing inequality but are enlisted as responsible for recovering—and emerging strengthened—from the adverse consequences of retrenchment. Investigating this paradox, the project examined the uptake of resilience-building strategies and other local responses to adversity in Flint, Michigan, a community particularly affected by the changes to social welfare policy, disinvestment in public infrastructure, and racial, economic, and political disenfranchisement that characterize the postwelfare period. Focused on how people organize themselves in relation to one another, to place, to the state, and to other sites of institutional power, the project found a strong disidentification with “resilience” as a mode of self-understanding. These findings suggest that under protracted conditions of material inequality, long-standing American cultural ideologies of personal responsibility and strength in adversity are giving way to other modes of self-understanding and social organization.