Social Resilience and Agency. Perspectives on Ageing and Health from Tanzania

Obrist, Brigit. (2016) Social Resilience and Agency. Perspectives on Ageing and Health from Tanzania. Die Erde, 147 (4). pp. 266-274.

PDF - Published Version
Available under License CC BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike).


Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/52770/

Downloads: Statistics Overview


In the literature on sustainable development and resilience, “agency” is commonly used as a synonym for “capacity” or “capability”. In our earlier publication we have also used this terminology. But what exactly happens when social actors consider which capacities are important to deal with a threat? How are social actors capable of critically evaluating and possibly even changing their access to capitals and the enabling or constraining conditions of their own lives? We will draw on approaches developed in social theory to sharpen the analysis of the relationship between resilience and agency. To illustrate this refined perspective, we draw on empirical research on ageing, agency and health in Tanzania. We will take the threat of old age frailty and disability as a starting point, explore empirical situations of old age care as an engagement (or disengagement) by actors of the multiple social and cultural configurations that constrain or enable actions, and examine whether, through the interplay of habit, imagination, and judgment, these engagements reproduce or transform those structures and thus build social resilience to the threat of old age frailty and disability. This approach enabled us to identify several constellations which opened up interactive spaces for the public or private deliberations of available options (practical-evaluative agency), the active generation of possible future trajectories (projective agency) and sometimes even for structural modifications (transformative agency) with regard to old age care. Our findings further indicate that individual and collective actors positioned at the intersection of diverse fields of practice can develop more evaluative, projective and even transformative agency.
Faculties and Departments:04 Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Departement Gesellschaftswissenschaften > Ehemalige Einheiten Gesellschaftswissenschaften > Medizinethnologie (Obrist)
09 Associated Institutions > Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (Swiss TPH) > Former Units within Swiss TPH > Medical Anthropology (Obrist)
UniBasel Contributors:Obrist van Eeuwijk, Brigit
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Gesellschaft für Erdkunde
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
Related URLs:
Identification Number:
edoc DOI:
Last Modified:05 Jul 2018 10:54
Deposited On:10 Jan 2017 09:55

Repository Staff Only: item control page