Governing through Women: Ethics and Politics of Disaster Reconstruction in the Philippines

Ms Kaira Zoe Alburo-Canete2

2University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia

This paper examines the reconstruction of post-Yolanda Tacloban City from a feminist standpoint. I argue that ‘building back better’ from disaster is essentially enmeshed in a citizenship project that instills within disaster-affected communities the responsibility to be resilient. The inculcation of this ethic of responsibility evidently plays out within the micro-moral domains of community life: the body, home, community, and local environs.  While the idea of ‘governing through community’ has been articulated as a novel mode of governing in recent years, I highlight how the domains through which post-disaster governance operates are also fundamentally feminised spaces. With women as critical drivers of community recovery, as my research in Tacloban shows, I argue that the ‘responsibilisation of resilience’ is achieved not simply by ‘governing through community’ as evident in community-focused interventions delivered by both state and non-state actors. More specifically this is accomplished by ‘governing through women’. Here, I demonstrate how state-initiated women’s organising, participation, and ‘self-enhancement’ programs serve to weave together individual responsibility, community-building, and ‘moral’ citizenship in the pursuit of hegemonic interpretations of resilience.  By analysing how women qualify, negotiate, and challenge such post-disaster citizenship project, I propose a reconceptualisation of resilience based on a feminist ethics of care.


Kaira Zoe Canete is a PhD Candidate at the School of Social Sciences of the University of New South Wales. Her doctoral dissertation examines disaster recovery and reconstruction from the standpoint of women. She is a recipient of an Endeavour Postgraduate Scholarship which supports her studies in Australia.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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