Epidemic illnesses—not only a product of biology, but also social and cultural phenomena—are as old as cities themselves. The recent pandemic of COVID-19 has put into perspective the impact of epidemic illness on urban life, and exposed the vulnerabilities of the societies it ravages as much as the bodies it infects. How can epidemics help us understand urban environments? What insights from the outbreak, experience, and response to previous urban epidemics might inform our understanding of COVID-19?
This online symposium will bring together academics from a range of disciplines to present case studies from across the globe to demonstrate how cities in particular are not just the primary place of exposure and quarantine, but also the site and instrument of intervention. The presentations cover a range of illnesses and epidemics, geographies, time periods, urban interventions, observations on the impact of these epidemics on society and urban life, and insights to understand, critique, or complexify the conception of and response to COVID-19. Each presentation shares the story of a city, an outbreak of illness, and the city’s response to the epidemic. This symposium will use history as a medium to provide a better understanding of the current crisis and its associated urban responses.
If you can’t join us for this conference, we welcome you to visit and subscribe to our YouTube site after the symposium to view recordings of these presentations.
Mohammad Gharipour, PhD (Morgan State University, Baltimore
Caitlin DeClercq, PhD (Columbia University, New York)