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University of Chicago Press
Maria Tanyag, ‘Resilience, Female Altruism and Bodily Autonomy: Disaster-Induced Displacement in Post-Haiyan Philippines’, Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 43(3) 2018: 563-85.
Natural disasters are increasingly causing displacements globally, and such negative impacts of climate change are expected to increase exponentially. Women and girls in particular distinctly endure long-term or gradual harms while in displacement, such as heightened risks of sexual and gender-based violence, including exposure to sexually transmitted infections and HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, and forced or unwanted pregnancies. This article examines the Philippines as a case study to unveil the growing gendered security threats embodied by disaster-induced displacements. In the aftermath of the disaster caused by supertyphoon Haiyan, which struck in November 2013, the mantra of developing a “disaster-resilient nation” has gained currency among national and international actors in the country. Building on critical feminist political economy analysis, this article argues that the Haiyan postdisaster relief and reconstruction efforts constitute gendered processes that intimately rely on and mobilize women’s unremunerated social reproductive labor, particularly through their role as primary caregivers. Data for this research is drawn from twenty-six interviews with key informants and from secondary sources such as official reports of governmental, nongovernmental, and international humanitarian organizations. The findings underscore the importance of deploying a feminist lens to critique the material and discursive power of “resilience” through which norms of female altruism are harnessed at household and community levels while postdisaster responsibilities are increasingly diverted away from the state. In so doing, resilience discourses may serve to reinforce the structural roots of gendered vulnerability, including political, cultural, and economic barriers to accessing sexual and reproductive health services and supplies—thereby undermining bodily autonomy.