The Zoonotic City: Urban Political Ecology and the Pandemic Imaginary


In the context of the Covid-19 pandemic this article takes a longer view of the evolving relationship between urbanization and the range of zoonotic diseases that have spread from animals to humans. I suggest that the existing interpretation of epidemiological transitions remains overly Eurocentric and requires a more nuanced conception of global environmental history. Similarly, the conceptualization of urban space within these teleological schemas has relied on a narrow range of examples and has failed to fully engage with networked dimensions to urbanization. At an analytical level I consider the potential for extending the conceptual framework offered by urban political ecology to take greater account of the epidemiological dimensions to contemporary urbanization and its associated pandemic imaginary. I examine how contemporary health threats intersect with complex patterns of environmental change, including the destruction of biodiversity (and trade in live animals), the co-evolutionary dynamics of viruses and other pathogens, and wider dimensions to the global technosphere, including food production, infrastructure networks, and the shifting topographies of peri- or ex-urban contact zones.