I just presented my paper ‘The ordinary fabric of urban resilience’ at the European Association for Urban History‘s 14th Conference ‘Urban renewal and resilience. Cities in comparative perspective’. It formed part of the session ‘Imagining Resilient Cities: Comparative Historical Perspectives on “Resilience” from 1800 to the Present’, organized by A. Sharma and D. Brantz on August 30, 2018 at Roma Tre University.
From dry taps to inundated homes, non-permanencies and disruptions are quite ordinary features of urban life around the world. In many cities, public urban infrastructures, to take an example, never had a truly universal character, often delivering a differentiated service. Elaborating upon the example of domestic water use in Mexico City, this paper discusses how everyday practices mask the selective negligence of the state. Amidst rationing, unreliable supply patterns, and a widespread mistrust in tap water quality, people resort to individual coping strategies which are both classed and gendered, as poorer women bear the brunt of responsibility – either in their own homes, and/or as domestic workers. Past and present spatialities are of relevance in this context. The paper draws upon empirical material gathered through the habitat biography method to demonstrate how limited supply and temporary disruptions are rendered invisible and ordinary by personal experience in the home, and how that relates to the debate around resilience. Exposing a strongly differentiated reliability and heterogeneous levels of support for its citizens, it would seem that it is precisely through temporal and/or spatial absences that the state plays a significant role in the ordinary resilience of cities. In this respect, the discourse around resilience bears certain similarities to the glowing praise of self-help in the context of so-called urban informality from the 1970s onwards.