On 26 November 2019 AfREC partnered with the UWA Public Policy Institute (PPI) to convene a roundtable lunch seminar by Prof. Roger Keil on “Perforated Boundaries: Emerging Constellations of Disease in an Era of Extended Urbanisation”. Roger Keil, Professor of Environmental Studies and Research Chair in Global Sub/Urban Studies at the University of York, Toronto, Canada, is currently a visiting scholar at UWA.
The roundtable deconstructed research on contemporary patterns of urbanisation, which Professor Keil argued is predominantly a form of suburbanisation, the spread of infectious disease, as well as community responses to the outbreaks of Ebola in urbanising West Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This work is linked to an ongoing project on Africa’s New Suburbanisms.
Professor Keil presented the distilled results of a decade-long research project on global suburbanisation. “Much of urbanisation processes worldwide now occur at the rapidly evolving urban fringe. As suburbanisation and peri-urbanisation become characteristic features of the urban century, the future city, or urban life, takes shape at the margins. The arrangement of such a life becomes an increasingly central concern, not just of local communities, but also in tightly interdependent metropolitan social constellations.”
“Little is yet understood about the rapidly changing periphery exactly as it acquires the status of centrality both functionally and spatially: infrastructure, education, commercial centres, immigration and settlement are now happening there. Many challenges that define the urban region appear most accentuated at the edge, but remain unmet given the general lack of attention that the urban periphery has enjoyed in both scholarly and policy discourses.”
“Cities don’t just grow at the periphery where new, often perforated, boundaries of emerging pathologies are drawn. The new peripheries themselves establish connectivities by remaking the urban hierarchy of centre and periphery, and by changing their position in the global space of flows that now conditions the sub/urban world. Professor Keil will look particularly towards this area of peripheral vulnerabilities: infectious disease in suburban environments. He will discuss the political pathologies of the urban periphery by looking at the conceptual and empirical intersections of global suburbanisation with the emergence of new peripheral metabolisms and emerging infectious diseases. He will examine the ways in which the new peripheries are now cast in a field of tension between the changing regional hierarchical relationships and the changing global networked flows.”
Through marriage of these two conversations, Professor Keil invited guests to contemplate the relationships of urban peripheries and the spread of emerging infectious disease, using a case study on community responses to the Ebola outbreaks in West Africa and the DRC that he is involved in. His presentation reported on ongoing field work in Sierra Leone and Liberia and discuss what can be learned from how urban communities were involved in those countries’ successful fight against Ebola virus disease in 2014/5.