The way we choose to frame current global challenges matters. Kenneth Burke called the language we use as “equipment for living” because how we speak about our acts and practices has an impact on how we understand our actions and how we decide to prioritise our next action plans. The conference Rhetoric as Equipment for Living organised by the Rhetoric Society of Europe (September 11-13, 2019, Ghent, Belgium) looked at the importance of rhetoric in various current contexts: social, cultural, political and anthropocenic.
Looking at the current tensions between the language we choose to describe current global challenges, particularly natural and human-induced disasters, Dr. Lavinia Hirsu from the School of Education at the University of Glasgow presented a paper entitled Resilience: le mot du jour or a symbol-strategy.
If we depart from the premise that resilience should be our ultimate goal that would enable us to withstand impending crises and disasters, does the term itself - resilience - limit our actions or is this the appropriate term to guide our next steps? In her presentation, Dr. Hirsu problematized the notion of resilience showing the ways in which this term is understood and enacted by different city-partners from the SUEUAA project.
Based on the data collected from city stakeholders and university representatives, resilience tends to be a slippery and complicated term, entangled with other complex motivations that emerge from the local socio-cultural contexts in which project partners were placed. The urgency of action is not always present in efforts to build city-resilience and other key terms are explored as alternative ways of framing current challenges. If resilience doesn’t always help actors to provide immediate and coordinated responses, Dr. Hirsu asks, then what other rhetorical terms might drive stakeholders to act quicker and more effectively? The presentation is currently being developed into a research article with implications for policy and practice.