Pandemic Urbanism


The deadline for submitting presentation proposals has passed.

Call for Participants and Provocateurs

Submit your proposal

The novel coronavirus pandemic has transformed cities around the world virtually overnight. Much of the cultural vibrance, economic strength, and social innovation that characterizes cities can be credited to their concentration of people and activity.  Put simply, cities bring people together, and togetherness allows for complex and fruitful exchange, resilient social structures, efficient use of pooled resources, and so on. But togetherness also brings risks, notably from infectious disease. A pandemic feeds on propinquity.  “Social distance,” while a short-term public health imperative, is antithetical to the very idea of the urban. Long-term responses have also, historically, tended to be anti-urban, in that the risk of infection has been used as justification for slum clearance and suburban sprawl. At the same time, the current pandemic is revealing the resilience of cities, and provoking radical reimaginings of what the city could be.

This symposium opens a conversation among academics, practitioners, civic leaders, and activists around the topic of COVIDovid-19 and cities. We especially invite contributions in relation to four themes:

  • Mobility (e.g., geographies of accessibility; transit funding and operations; travel patterns and mode shift)
  • Sociability (e.g., social infrastructure; parks and public space; social distancing; communications technology)
  • Politics (e.g., role of government; civic engagement; community organization; equity; resilience; activism and protest)
  • Density (e.g., health and contagion; critical infrastructure; built environments; land use; service delivery; agglomeration economies)

Contributions that do not fit neatly within any of these themes are also welcome.

Presentation Format

While this is not a typical academic or professional conference, the aim is to share knowledge and provoke inquiry across research and practice.  We seek contributions in a variety forms: your stories of experiences on the ground, your critical reactions to the current situation, your insights from previous work, your emerging research questions, and your speculations on what cities look like with or after COVID-19. This pandemic is new, constantly unfolding, and unlikely to conclude soon. As such, we welcome and encourage your contributions that are preliminary, tentative, uncertain, or open-ended.

We invite contributions from scholars in planning, geography, urban studies, sociology, history, public policy, and related fields; practitioners in domains such as transportation, public works, park and open space management, emergency management, economic development, and public health; local policy-makers; leaders from civil society; representatives from NGOs; and community organizers and other advocates.

The symposium will be held virtually, from 9am – 5pm PDT, on Friday, May 29, 2020. Each participant will have 10 minutes to share their work, experiences, observations, or other contribution. Sessions will be organized under the four topic areas described above to spark dialogue among a mix of voices.


To be considered, please send your title and up to 250 words describing your contribution no later than Friday, May 1 using the participation form.  We aim to include as many participants as possible; notification of acceptance by Friday, May 8.

Questions? Email

Call for Discussants, Moderators, and Other Volunteers

In addition to presenters, we are seeking participants to serve a number of roles. Please let us know if you would like to help run this symposium in any of the following ways:

  • As a session discussant
  • As a session Zoom moderator
  • By contributing to session organization and coordination
  • By nominating presenters or other participants

Indicate your interest on the participation form, or email