In current scientific efforts to harness complementarity between resilience and vulnerability theory, one response is an 'epistemological shift' towards an evolutionary, learning based conception of the 'systems-actor' relation in social-ecological systems. In this paper, we contribute to this movement regarding the conception of stakeholder agency within social-ecological systems. We examine primary evidence from the governance of post-disaster recovery and disaster risk reduction efforts in Thailand's coastal tourism-dependent communities following the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami. Through an emerging storyline from stakeholders, we construct a new framework for conceptualising stakeholder agency in social-ecological systems, which positions the notion of resilience within a conception of governance as a negotiated normative process. We conclude that if resilience theory is proposed as the preferred approach by which disaster risk reduction is framed and implemented, it needs to acknowledge much more explicitly the role of stakeholder agency and the processes through which legitimate visions of resilience are generated.