May 26 2021, 18:00 (CET), 12:00 (US East Coast)
“Spatial (In)Justice in the Post-COVID City”
COVID-19 was initially seen as the “great equaliser”. After all, a virus is not supposed to discriminate based on the class, gender, or race. Only the elderly should fear. The pandemic would finally bring us together against a common enemy. But it soon became obvious that social-spatial inequalities have a crucial role in infection and morbidity rates, not to mention the many different ways in which disadvantaged minorities and groups are affected. In the West, most white well-off citizens are able to shelter in place and work from home, while black and brown citizens must work in the frontline of the pandemic, often in “essential jobs” that are paradoxically the worst paid ones. Decisions to “open up the economy” can be equated to racist provisions, as they condemn black and brown citizens who must earn their living outside their homes to go out and face the virus. In the Global South, informal urbanisation in the form of slums has made sheltering in place strenuous, as people often live-in cramped conditions and don’t have access to running water and reliable electricity. Children without access to the internet are deprived of online education. These are just some of the examples of how the pandemic has highlighted structural spatial inequality and injustice.
While we must critically reflect on the injustices of the present, we also would like to begin thinking about the impact of COVID on cities in the future. How will COVID impact public transportation, views on social housing provision, density, vacant office space in centre cities and the flow of residents to suburbs that has already begun in the West? Will these new realities cement spatial injustices or do they provide an opportunity to reimagine urban spaces?
In view of the likelihood that pandemics will continue to ravage our cities and communities in the future, highlighting spatial injustice, what are policies, experiences and ideas that address this challenge? How can universities contribute to this discussion and prompt policymakers to act? How can universities support struggling communities in finding solutions that will deliver increased social cohesion, social sustainability, and resilience?
The Spatial Justice Network organised a roundtable to discuss these issues with the help of 5 contributors from all over the world.
Link to Zoom Recording of the meeting (copy and paste into your browser):