Co-editors: Dr Steve Greer (University of Glasgow) and Dr Margaret Ames (Aberystwyth University)

This themed issue explores the contentious status of resilience in its relationship to applied theatre and performance practice.

First coined to describe the potential for stability or equilibrium in ecological systems, the concept of resilience has migrated into the domain of social policy and political theory as a highly influential paradigm for understanding the potential for adaptation in the face of unpredictable challenges or ‘shocks’ (Walker and Cooper, 2011). In turn, resourcefulness has been deployed to describe a ‘learned’ repertoire of cognitive skills allowing individuals to regulate their response to internal events such as emotions and pain (see Rosenbaum and Jaffe, 1983) as well as a broader ability to access and deploy materials, money and power. Situating the concept of resilience as a ‘new form of political intervention’ (2014, xii) Evans and Reid propose a darker function of this power. Far from being a pro-active quality of survival in the face of vulnerability, resilience is an armament of neoliberal nihilism.

Informed by Helen Nicholson’s proposal that we ask whether the forms of social change sought through applied practice are done to its participants, with them, or by them, this special edition asks ‘resilience to what? Resilience for whom?’ (see Cretney 2014, Cutter 2016).

While narratives of self- reliance and triumph over adversity may affirm the persistence of individuals and communities – and the capacity of self-organised groups to ‘future proof’ their own existence – the celebration of autonomous resilience may have normative qualities when it rationalises a neoliberal discourse of ‘responsibility without power’ (Peck and Tickell, 2002). If resilience and resourcefulness offer mutually informative lenses for thinking about power and social justice then their ecological dimensions might also suggest the relationships between human activity in its broader, non-human contexts and participants.

In response, this issue considers how applied practice might respond to and emerge from evolving and multiple types of resilience and resourcefulness – whether personal, environmental, physical and/or political. We are particularly  interested in how performance may subject definitions of those terms and their priorities to ethical scrutiny, and imagine – or begin to practice – alternatives to those preferred within neoliberal economies (which prize resilience and resourcefulness as the qualities of self-mastering, competitive subjects capable of thriving with limited support from the state). Though these concerns may be most immediately felt in the fields of disability arts and ecological performance, and in practice developed within marginalised or precarious communities, they also suggest the broader conditions within which contemporary applied practice unfolds.

We are also interested in how the relationships between resilience and resourcefulness may unfold in relation to a third term – sustainability – which calls attention to the timebound, finite and irreversible nature of the wider human use of natural resources and, perhaps, of the act of performance-making itself. How do we perform sustainable acts? What are we sustaining in performative terms? In exploring these questions, we do not understand resilience and resourcefulness as oppositional terms but as concepts which are mutually implicated in each other’s meaning.

Specific contributions may address the following:

  • Where do social and ecological understandings of resilience intersect in and with applied performance?
  • What can applied performance tell us about the relationship between resilience and vulnerability/precarity, or between resilience and resourcefulness?
  • How can resilience help us understand the relationship of applied practices to space, community and place? How do different cultural contexts shape the meaning – and consequence – of resilience and resourcefulness?
  • How do applied performance practices elaborate the relationship between collective resilience and self-care? How do we understand resilience and resourcefulness in relation to disability, impairment and ‘wellness’?
  • How does resilience thinking inform and shape theatre practice? (e.g. demands for impact, ‘sustainable’ business models, emphasises on networks over institutions)
  • How does applied performance practice help us reconsider – or better understand –  sustainability on an individual or group level?

To support less pressurised working practices, we have deliberately adopted a longer than usual development process for this issue.

Please send initial proposals of approximately 300 words for articles (6-8,000 words), provocations (1500 words) and interviews / dialogues with and between practitioners, activists and researchers to both Stephen Greer ( and Margaret Ames ( by Friday June 28th. Full articles will be due in Spring 2020, with publication intended for volume 26, issue 1 of Research in Drama Education: The Journal of Applied Theatre and Performance in February 2021.


Cretney, Raven (2014) ‘Resilience for whom? Emerging critical geographies of socio-ecological resilience’, Geography Compass 8(9): 627–640.

Cutter, Susan L. (2016) ‘Resilience to What? Resilience for Whom?’, The Geographical Journal 182(2): 110–113.

Evans, B and Reid, J (2014) Resilient Life. The Art of Living Dangerously. Cambridge: Polity.

Peck, Jamie and Tickell, Adam (2002) ‘Neoliberalizing space’, Antipode. Wiley Online Library 34(3): 380–404.

Rosenbaum, Michael and Jaffe, Yoram (1983) ‘Learned helplessness: The role of individual differences in learned resourcefulness’, British Journal of Social Psychology. Wiley Online Library 22(3): 215–225.

Walker, Jeremy and Cooper, Melinda (2011) ‘Genealogies of resilience: From systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation’, Security dialogue. SAGE Publications Sage UK: London, England 42(2): 143–160.

Peck, Jamie, and Adam Tickell. 2002. Neoliberalizing space. Antipode 34 (3): 380–404.

Walker, Jeremy, and Melinda Cooper. 2011. Genealogies of resilience: From systems ecology to the political economy of crisis adaptation. Security dialogue 42 (2): 143-160.