Assessing Critical Urban Infrastructure During the COVID-19 Pandemic: What Counts as Infrastructure and Why Does It Matter?

Type: Virtual Panel
Sponsor Groups: Urban Geography Specialty Group, Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters Specialty Group
Organizers: Sarah Heck, Melissa Gilbert
Chairs: Hamil Pearsall


Within the context of the unfolding novel Coronavirus pandemic, climate change, and social inequality, critical infrastructure including medical care, energy systems, water provisioning, supply chains, housing, transportation, information communication technologies, food systems, and the like have been revealed to be anything but mundane. Often regarded as the background or substrate to contemporary life (Star, 1999), infrastructures’ role in addressing the challenges of a global health crisis, climate change, and social inequality have been brought into sharp relief. Geographers have shed important light on the role of infrastructure, in understanding cities as socio-technical systems (Graham and Marvin, 2001), in teasing out the cultural and political work that constitutes infrastructure (Truelove, 2011), and in networking human-environment relations (Heynen, Kaika, and Swyngedouw, 2006). However, the Coronavirus pandemic offers a moment to reflect on what counts as infrastructure, not just in theory but in practice, and why that matters to efforts addressing the social inequities and injustices exposed by the public health crisis. Bringing together scholars across a diverse range of interests and expertise, this session seeks to tease out the complex relational and social functionality (Latham and Layton, 2019) various critical infrastructures serve and how these infrastructures have responded to or been transformed during COVID. We are particularly interested in generating a rich discussion addressing the challenges various infrastructure systems face amid the on-going pandemic and how geographic research on infrastructure might be poised to address these challenges.


Type Details Minutes
Panelist Sofia Shwayri 15
Panelist Tabea Latocha DeMontford University Leicester, UK 15
Panelist Lindsay Campbell USDA Forest Service, Northern Research Station 15
Panelist Michael Glass University of Pittsburgh 15
Panelist Kanthi Swaroop Indian Institute of Technology Bombay 15

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