Roger Keil is a Professor at the Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change, York University in Toronto, Canada. He is the author of Suburban Planet (Polity 2018) and co-editor, with Fulong Wu, of the forthcoming After Suburbia (UTP 2021). Keil’s research areas are global suburbanization, cities and infectious disease, regional governance and urban political ecology. He is a co-investigator in a partnership grant on regional student mobility and currently works at the intersection of global urbanization and (emerging) infectious disease with colleagues in Berlin, Milan and Toronto on the relationship of the COVID-19 pandemic and cities.
From the moment of revolt to the hard road of reconstruction and resilience: Urban life after the pandemic
This presentation builds on long term research on the relationship of urbanization and infectious disease. What had been hypothetical before 2020 is now experiential: COVID-19 has been the first pandemic of the urban century and has affected cities around the globe. While the universal health crisis touched most, it did so unevenly. Generally, it could be argued that COVID-19 is a disease of the social, spatial and institutional periphery of urban regions.
Simultaneously, the pandemic year has also been one of widespread global revolt around racial justice, -- influencing the ways in which the pandemic was perceived -- and sharpened the calibrations and categories with which we were able to measure the impact of COVID-19 on urban communities from infection to vaccination in each city and in the urban world.
Ultimately, the reopening of cities and towns everywhere has been partly a “reconstruction” of the status quo ante and partly a breakthrough to new modes of urban living that challenge the structure of that status quo. I will argue that the more powerful that second thrust is, the more resilient urban communities will be to the next catastrophic threat down the line.