27-28 October 2021
Global crises, both sudden and gradual, challenge how we live in, and organize, city societies. 2020 emerged as a year of multiple, co-existing crises, challenging pre-existing notions of urban structures as solid and gradually evolving. The covid pandemic shut down societies as we know them and demonstrated the potential for radical urban change. Notably, the pandemic intersected – in both complementary and contradictory ways – with pre-existing crises: the climate catastrophe, unprecedented levels of inequality, a housing market better suited for investors than the people in need of housing, and a population increasingly polarized politically, and largely segregated – both in physical and virtual spaces. The links between these crisis-phenomena are rarely explored, yet they are essential if the goal is transformation towards sustainable futures.
The severity of the covid crisis, and its intersections with the multiple crises already persistent in our contemporary spaces, had a particular urban dimension. For almost two years, cities around the world were shut down as the pandemic targeted many of the most treasured aspects of urban life, and reinforced underlying social inequalities that still characterize our cities. The aftermath of the pandemic will similarly have a particular impact on urban areas, with the material, social and psychological consequences (both long- and short-term) still unknown. Will cities rapidly bounce back to their pre-pandemic selves – with all the positive and negative qualities of the 21st century urban life quickly re-emerging, or will we see a future where urban residents – supported by new digital developments – choose to abandon the cities for more spacious areas with more accessible housing markets? In short: What kind of city are we now returning to?
Cities are currently observed to take the lead globally and nationally in tackling crises of diverse types. However, limited research and few conferences have examined how co-existing crises are to be dealt with. At this years’ OsloMet Urban Research Conference, we put the multiple crises influencing contemporary cities center stage. The conference fleshes out the consequences of co-existing crises for cities. It explores how one type of crisis is compounded by other forms of crises and how complex, conflictual and collective crises can be tackled across actors and scales. It also seeks to explore the opportunities given by crises for rethinking and redeveloping cities. How can we now act to ensure that we use the multiple crises as opportunities to improve future urban spaces?