06 MAY 2022 (FRI) 10:00-11:30

Updated: 4 days ago

HKU-USF Distinguished Professor Webinar Series

Under the leadership of Vice-President (Academic Development) Professor Peng Gong, The University of Hong Kong launches the Distinguished Professor Webinar Series organized by the Urban System Forum (HKU-USF). The HKU-USF Distinguished Professor Webinar Series features presentations to be delivered by outstanding urban scientists and theorists around the globe. It aims to inspire cross-disciplinary research and nurture future leaders in urban systems research at different scales and from various perspectives. Please note that the fifth event of HKU-USF Distinguished Professor Webinar Series will be held via Zoom on 06 May, 2022 (Friday), 10:00 a.m HKT.

Date: 06 May 2022 (Friday)

Time: 10:00-11:30 (HKT)

Zoom ID: 970 7705 0979 Please be ready 5 minutes prior to the scheduled time.



Between the colossal and the catastrophic: Planetary urbanization and the political ecologies of emergent infectious disease

Against the backdrop of contemporary debates on the transcendence of city-centric epistemologies in urban theory, this article proposes a theoretical framework for exploring the connections between processes of planetary urbanization and the political ecologies of emergent infectious disease (EID). Following a brief overview of research on cities and the coronavirus pandemic, we elaborate a critical interrogation and heterodox synthesis of two distinct lines of investigation—1) research by Roger Keil and his collaborators on the embeddedness of EIDs within processes of extended urbanization; and 2) work by radical epidemiologist Rob Wallace and his colleagues, which productively situates EIDs in relation to the geographies and political ecologies of agribusiness under neoliberalizing capitalism. We direct attention to the ways in which processes of planetary urbanization are remaking the non-human geographies of non-city spaces, causing infectious pathogens to be unmoored from previously localized ecosystems and catapulted into broader territories of circulation. This line of analysis requires rigorous application of dialectical methods that can illuminate the internal relations through which cities dynamically co-evolve and co-transform with the non-city spaces, more-than-human territories, and multispecies political ecologies that support their metabolic operations, including at the microbiological scale of novel pathogens. The elaboration of such an approach yields an interpretation of the urbanization/EID nexus as a medium and expression of the agro-ecological crisis-tendencies of neoliberal capitalism. A concluding section outlines three emergent arenas of agro-industrial transformation in which processes of extended urbanization have created new spatial configurations and infrastructural pathways for the production and proliferation of EIDs.


Prof. Neil Brenner

Lucy Flower Professor, Urban Sociology, University of Chicago

Neil Brenner is Lucy Flower Professor of Urban Sociology at the University of Chicago. Brenner’s writing and teaching focus on the challenges of reinventing our approach to urbanization in relation to the crises, contradictions and struggles of our time. Brenner’s books include New Urban Spaces: Urban Theory and the Scale Question (Oxford, 2019) and Critique of Urbanization: Selected Essays (Bauwelt Fundamente, 2016), as well as the edited volume Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization (Jovis, 2014).