Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster „Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration“

The Governance of Transnational Risks an Resilience in Fragile States

Prof. Dr. Benjamin Zyla


This collaborative project aims to understand how small groups in peri-urban areas in fragile states perceive and govern risks to their communities—that is the local strategies they developed to react to these risks and to increase their resilience against future risks. Put differently, while in times of social and economic, cultural and environmental transitions, states on the one hand have to take (or avert) risks, on the other hand these risks also require local responses, mitigation, or be made part of domestic political processes and strategies to increase domestic resilience. This project is interested in these processes and how local communities define risks and develop resilience strategies. While the academic as well as policy world (e.g. OECD) have studied the importance of resilience and how to overcome state fragility, very little research has been done on how local actors perceive, define, and govern external risks. It is this lacuna that this project will fill.

More specifically, while acknowledging non-Western forms of risk perception and resulting resilience strategies, the project’s overall aim is to systematically analyze (a) how risks shape social (resilience) practices, and (b) influence what is deemed acceptable, economically sustainable and morally desirable by non-Western societies. That is the project uncovers the mechanisms of how states and sub-state groups ascribe to risks, how state and non-state actors negotiate it, and above all, how affected states have mitigated them. To this end, a figurational analysis, which identifies how people interact with peers in concrete settings, produces an understanding of how groups define and fulfill their respective roles in relation to others with whom they compete or collaborate. By focusing on the politics within figurations of people, the project explores the prospects of democratic, traditional or hybrid forms of governance in a number of fragile states (see methods section below for details). In other words, the proposed figurational analysis of risks and resilience strategies is able to identify where spheres of authority are negotiated, normatively demarcated, and bolstered by the allocation of funds, influence, and the epistemic shaping of the ‘risk landscape’.

In short, this project provides the starting point for a comprehensive mapping of risk perceptions and resilience strategies and establishing an international research network of partners in Asia, Africa and Latin America of scholars working on resilience, and thus bringing together risk studies from different regions of the global South.