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Governing the Sick City: Urban Governance in the Age of Emerging Infectious Disease

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Based on a case study of the 2003 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak in Toronto, Canada, this article suggests that we may have to rethink our common perception of what urban governance entails. Rather than operating solely in the conceptual proximity of social cohesion and economic competitiveness, urban governance may soon prove to be more centrally concerned with questions of widespread disease, life and death and the construction of new internal boundaries and regulations just at the time that globalization seems to suggest the breakdown of some traditional scalar incisions such as national boundaries in a post-Westphalian environment. We argue that urban governance must face the new (or reemerging) challenge of dealing with infectious disease in the context of the “new normal” and that global health governance may be better off by taking the possibilities that rest in metropolitan governance more seriously.

Keywords: SARS; Toronto; global cities; infectious disease; urban governance

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: York University, Toronto, Canada; and, Email:

Publication date: 2007-11-01

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