CURA Conference 2022 – Call for papers

Call for Papers: Towards the “Post-Pandemic” City?


The Centre for Urban Research on Austerity (CURA) welcomes submissions for our forthcoming three-day on-line conference: Towards the “Post-Pandemic” City? To enable a wide range of international contributions, the conference will take place in the afternoons and early evenings of 14th to 16th June 2022 (British Summer Time). Abstracts for conference papers should be up to 200 words, indicating the names and affiliations of authors. Panel proposals should name a convenor and explain the rationale for the session in up to 200 words. Panels in conventional conference format should put forward 3-4 papers, with abstracts supplied for each. We welcome inventive panel formats and round tables, but all proposals should include the names and contributions of expected participants. Please submit contributions to by Friday 29th April 2022.


Cities, especially disadvantaged and peripheralized urban areas, are simultaneously exposed to the worst and most iniquitous fiscal and public health impacts of COVID-19 and lauded as agents of renaissance, recovery and transformation. Herein lies the apparent multi-faceted contradiction we wish to explore through this conference. On the one hand, international organisations, including the UN and OECD, represent cities as a source of the vitality and creativity required to ‘build back better’ or deliver ‘new social contracts’ encompassing economic wellbeing, public health and environmental sustainability. From a different vantage-point, urban and peri-urban struggles for equality have pragmatically organized for solidarity and mutual aid and are seen as possessing emancipatory potential and capable of inaugurating alternative political economies. On the other hand, cities remain intense zones of infectivity and have been severely debilitated by the intense economic, demographic and fiscal shocks arising from the pandemic and decades of neoliberal retrenchment. The emergence of Omicron, moreover, is a reminder that an endlessly mutating virus could challenge the very idea of a “post-pandemic city” for the foreseeable future.
Regardless of how tractable COVID-19 turns out to be short-term, we are faced with the question of how radical urban theory, scholarship and activism confront continuing aftershocks, as they intersect long-existing crises and inequalities of public health, environment, work, welfare and economy across the dimensions of class, race, gender, generation and geography. We are also concerned with whether the pandemic has, for better or worse, stimulated shifts in urban policy (engendered from the top-down or bottom-up). Without transformative political economics, argued Adam Tooze in Shutdown, “there is every reason to think that 2020 will be only the first of an increasingly unmanageable series of global disasters”. To what extent, then, can the urban be a source of such transformation?

In the context of accelerating systemic (urban) pathologies and contradictions, this call invites participants to respond to the provocative question asked by Angelo and Wachsmuth (2020): Why does everyone think cities can save the planet? More specifically, given the inauspicious conditions unleashed by the pandemic/syndemic, and myriad prequel urban crises, how can cities and city-dwellers plausibly be agents of progressive, egalitarian or emancipatory futures ‘beyond’ or indeed ‘living with’ COVID-19 and whatever successor crises emerge? Where, if anywhere, does the pandemic open new political-economic vistas for transformative urbanism of more-or-less radical and fundamental kinds? Conversely, how and where do histories of unequal urban development instead accelerate death-dealing crises of health care, ecology and social reproduction, and encourage sceptical resignation or regressive, authoritarian, conspiracy-laden movements, and dynamics?
We hope this framing is suitably provocative, and welcome responses addressing the challenges it poses, from all spheres of the urban field.

Jonathan Davies
Director – Centre for Urban Research on Austerity