Skip to content

The power to define resilience in social–hydrological systems

Timos Karpouzoglou, researcher at the division, has published an article together with Art Dewulf, Jeroen Warner, Anna Wesselink and nine other scholars on the social implications of hydrological systems.

If you are interested in their work, you can find the abstract below and the full text here.


Since the early work on defining and analyzing resilience in domains such as engineering, ecology and psychology, the concept has gained significant traction in many fields of research and practice. It has also become a very powerful justification for various policy goals in the water sector, evident in terms like flood resilience, river resilience, and water resilience. At the same time, a substantial body of literature has developed that questions the resilience concept’s systems ontology, natural science roots and alleged conservatism, and criticizes resilience thinking for not addressing power issues. In this study, we review these critiques with the aim to develop a framework for power-sensitive resilience analysis. We build on the three faces of power to conceptualize the power to define resilience. We structure our discussion of the relevant literature into five questions that need to be reflected upon when applying the resilience concept to social?hydrological systems. These questions address: (a) resilience of what, (b) resilience at what scale, (c) resilience to what, (d) resilience for what purpose, and (e) resilience for whom; and the implications of the political choices involved in defining these parameters for resilience building or analysis. Explicitly considering these questions enables making political choices explicit in order to support negotiation or contestation on how resilience is defined and used.

Working as a doctoral student in the Nuclearwaters-Project (ERC Consolidator Grant, PI Per Högselius), I focus on the nuclear history of Eastern Europe, especially on the territory of the former Soviet Union and its successor states. Furthermore, I investigate expert cultures in nuclear discourses, with a special interest in water-related issues in nuclear power plant decision-making. In addition, I am intrigued by the entanglement of the commercial, scientific and political interests concerning nuclear technologies, with its sometimes harsh consequences on human societies and the environment. Recently this interest has extended to energy systems as a whole in Eastern Europe, including fossil fuels and renewables. Questions of transition within international energy systems in the face of the climate crisis and recent political developments become more important, as my work progresses.

%d bloggers like this: