Adaptation Machines and the Parasitic Politics of Life in Jamaican Disaster Resilience



This paper unpacks a politics of life at the heart of community-based disaster management to advance a new understanding of resilience politics. Through an institutional ethnography of participatory resilience programming in Kingston, Jamaica, I explore how staff in Jamaica's national disaster management agency engaged with a qualitatively distinct form of collective life in Kingston's garrison districts. Garrison life has been shaped by the confluence of political economic, cultural, geopolitical force relations, which creates a hyper-adaptive life that exceeds the techniques and rationalities of neoliberal disaster resilience. I draw on autonomist Marxist and Deleuzian readings of biopolitics to identify a new subject of disaster politics that I call, after Deleuze and Guattari, “adaptation machines”, decentralized apparatuses of capture that are parasitically reliant on the population's immanent adaptive capacities. The concept of adaptation machines enables us to envision resilience politics as a struggle over how to appropriate vulnerable peoples’ world-forming constituent power.