Social resilience - interdisciplinary perspective?

Beyond the psychopathological perspective, and shifting from ‘I' to ‘we, us, and they,' the concept of resilience has evolved from a trait perspective to contextualization of person-environment interaction. Popular definitions frame social resilience as 'The capacity or ability to withstand crisis, deal with stress, and to take opportunities that might arise to maintain and increase the well‐being' (
Adger, 2002; Keck & Sakdapolrak, 2013; Obrist et al., 2010; Sakdapolrak et al., 2016). However, the 'social' as a significant construct is not voiced out in these definitions. Also, the opportunities arise from resources and resources are embedded is multiple environmental factors. These environmental factors are interconnected and they intersect to shape or form the several abilities that contribute to the process of social resilience. It became obvious that 'resilience' is at the crossroads of several interconnected environmental factors, demanding a holistic knowledge of the context that shapes the social resilience process.

The consensus on conceptualizing resilience as a complex interdisciplinary construct and investigating it using multiple levels of analysis process may be characterized by its socio-political context (
Southwick et al., 2014). The interdisciplinary approach facilitates the triangulation of theoretical and methodological strategies, and the meaning-making process by rethinking and sustainable learning (Bednarek, 2021; Christensen et al., 2021). While disciplinary biases in resilience research restrict theoretical flexibility, the concept of social resilience entails the understanding of human experience in a social world where environmental factors influence psychological, social, and economic well-being.

Social resilience is a contextually ingrained interdisciplinary phenomenon that cannot be investigated using disciplinary theoretical and/or methodological 'biases' (
Qamar, 2023). The interdependence of human beings in the social world shapes their lives over time and thus demands a researcher be close to the participants' transitory experiences without following the preset linear pathways to interpretation (Hareven, 2018; Hutchison, 2010). The researchers can evaluate the change and challenges related to life course adaptation strategies by recognizing the diversity of experiences and the intersectional influence of environmental factors. The intersectional frame of references (such as in sociology, political science, anthropology, and psychology) should be used to study identity, status, and agency, all of which must be addressed holistically through theoretical and methodological triangulation. Interdisciplinary qualitative research can unfold and interpret the complex context of social resilience and ever-changing human lives in a specific context.

The combination of personal and social resources, the impact of environmental factors, and human response to adversity and crisis are considerably linked to the process of resilience (
Coyne and Downy, 1991; Lazarus and Folkman, 1984; Thoits, 1986; Berry and Kim, 1987). Hence, to research social resilience as a process in the context of lived experience, any proposed research to investigate social resilience should consider that:

  • The concept of ‘social resilience’ is contextualized to reveal the phenomenon in its broader social, cultural, economic, and political context, and indigenous understanding. Researching social resilience with a ground-up interdisciplinary approach is required.
  • Multiple interconnected environmental factors affect human lives. People experience change, face challenges, and thrive through interacting with these factors on multiple levels. Hence, the intersectional nature of the process of social resilience should be studied with theoretical triangulation.
  • To give voice to the perceptions and experiences of the people, methodological rigor is achieved by employing a methodological mosaic in which different methods are connected to get a holistic perspective.

Qualitative research, with its flexibility to gain deep insight into social phenomena, provides space for theoretical and methodological triangulation. It provides an interpretive approach to understanding human lives in their environmental contexts by collecting and interpreting knowledge about processes and experiences (Willig, 2001). Qualitative research methods contribute to resilience studies with their flexibility and depth that can be used to investigate resilience and associated risk factors in the specific sociocultural context. In this connection, the qualitative research approach can uncover the whole phenomenon of social resilience by giving voices to the participants, avoiding generalizations, and accounting for diversities in experiences through a thick description of the phenomenon. It deals with the depth of the data grounded in lived experiences and the construction of realities by the people in their social contexts (
Ungar, 2003).


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