Asian Review

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This paper analyses the ideology of resilience, as it is manifested in Thailand, through the relationship between urban climate change security and the neo-liberal subject. The neo-liberal project of resilience that is commonly advocated by ideologues and policy makers in response to catastrophic events, such as floods, has generated considerable debate in architectural and urban design circles but has largely failed to consider the ontology of vulnerability that underwrites neo-liberal notions of political responsibility and its attendant practices of (in)security. Although the literature in political ecology has fruitfully interrogated urban climate change resilience from the point of view of disaster management, this paper elects to forgo this trend by demonstrating how the neo-liberal subject of climate change is implicated in processes of global governance that take bio-spherical life as their referent object. As an incarnation of neo-liberalism's doctrine of sustainable development, the concept of resilience—scripted in the 1990s and early 2000s by intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) and financial institutions such as the World Bank—has increasingly come to posit human exposure to risk as positively fundamental to the adaptability and self-reliance of so-called vulnerable populations. Focusing on Bangkok's 2011 floods, this paper therefore scrutinizes this ideology of resilience by exploring how the environmental uncertainties and social dangers associated with urban climate change—in particular severe flooding—are in fact aggravated and overdetermined by an ideology that disavows any notion of a subject with the promethean potential to change the world, in favor of one that merely conforms to his or her surroundings. As this paper will show, in Bangkok the critical infrastructure and urban spaces that are protected from the threat of global climate change are closely connected to discourses of resilience that strategically depoliticize and ultimately seek to contain already marginalized communities.



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