Revitalising the City: Responding to the Crisis of Rapid Urbanisation in Mid-twentieth Century International Health Discourse
Dr. Tim Brown (Queen Mary U London)
|Date||Thursday, 18 January 2018, 5:15 pm – 6:45 pm|
|Location||SFB 1199 | Strohsackpassage | Nikolaistraße 6-10 | 5th Floor | 04109 Leipzig|
|Contact||Tom Schwarzenberg (IfL & SFB 1199) | email@example.com|
The problem of urban life, and especially the close interaction between the urban environment and population health, is one that has vexed the international public health community since its inception in the mid-nineteenth century. Cities have long served as epicentres for the emergence of health crises, as transformative hubs whose increased connectivity renders nations, regions, the globe vulnerable to infectious diseases as well as for the risk factors associated with chronic ones. Moreover, cities are sites upon which the calculative and spatially oriented lens of the medical and health sciences has been routinely fixed.
This presentation focuses on the problematisation of the city during the middle decades of the twentieth century. This was a period in which rapid urbanisation re-emerged as a major target for national and international public health discourse. As with the nineteenth century, cities, and especially the rapidly transforming cities of the Global South, were constituted as pathological places; ones whose ‘unnatural’ spaces threatened the health and vitality of their urban inhabitants. Yet, these discourses of anxiety and threat were not limited to the potential for urban space to undermine health within the city. Rather, rapid urbanisation was increasingly conceived as a world health crisis in the making.
In turning attention to the problematisation of the city in this period, the presentation offers a genealogy of the present. As the discourses of global health security remind us the concerns of mid-century international public health have by and large come to pass; urban space is a threat to global health. Yet, the ambitions of the presentation go beyond considering the various ways in which urban space, and especially rapid urbanisation, were conceived as threatening to health and vitality in the mid-twentieth century. Rather, it aims to shed further light on how this discourse on the sick city was transformed into a discourse on the healthy city. In other words, it considers how international public health knowledge was translated into a utopian vision for future urban intervention.
Dr. Tim Brown (School of Geograohy, Queen Mary U London, UK)
Tim Brown is a geographer with research interests in the productive and transformative potential of health and biomedical discourse. He is especially interested in public health discourses, both in terms of the promotion of particular forms of healthy subjectivity and its corollary the construction of diseased and unhealthy bodies. Closely aligned with this is a concern with the transformative power of public health discourse, especially as it relates to interventions that seek to reconfigure the behaviours of populations and transform the spaces people inhabit. As a critical geographer heavily influenced by Foucault’s work on governmentality, he has also contributed to disciplinary debates relating to geographer’s engagement with health, disease and biomedicine. This has taken the form of influential review essays as well as the co-production of a range of scholarly texts. The latter include: A Companion to Health and Medical Geography (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009) and the forthcoming Health Geographies: A Critical Introduction (Wiley-Blackwell, 2017).