Recipe for Resilience? Tracing the Biopolitics of Sint Maarten’s Recovery Efforts After Irma

On 6 September 2017, hurricane Irma made landfall in Sint Maarten causing extensive infrastructural damage and leaving thousands homeless in its aftermath. Despite ongoing relief efforts, the country is still facing a huge recovery task nearly one year on. Amid a new hurricane season, many questions remain about the country’s future and its state of readiness for possible future climate impacts. In response to these concerns, the government of Sint Maarten has recently spearheaded several initiatives supported by the World Bank and the Netherlands, aimed at mobilizing resources to fuel the recovery efforts and build local-level capacity to prepare for future disaster events. These initiatives include several key pieces of legislations and plans that have set out the government’s vision and priorities. For this paper, I draw on these reports along with several key informant interviews conducted in summer 2018 to offer some preliminary insights on Sint Maarten’s post-hurricane situation. More specifically, I explore how ideas around resilience and “building back better”, get mobilized and incorporated in the recovery efforts and plans following Irma, and the particular work these perform both materially and discursively. The paper also highlights the various ways the post-hurricane situation has become a highly contested and politicized post/colonial terrain, fueled largely by the ongoing tensions and power asymmetries between the Netherlands and the Sint Maarten government.