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Roger H Keil

Roger H Keil


Cities, Regions, Planning Coordinator


Dr.Phil. (Political Science), Johann Wolfgang Goethe Universität

Research Keywords

Global Suburbanisms; Infectious Disease & Cities; Urban Political Ecology; Urban Infrastructures; Urban Governance & Planning

Roger H Keil

Contact Information

4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3

416 736 2100


Research Interests

I am a political scientist working on local, urban and regional politics and I have made my intellectual home predominantly in urban geography and urban studies. My substantive research areas are urban political ecologycities and infectious disease and global suburbanizationGovernance and politics remain the connecting tissue between these areas. This means I am particularly interested, in my research and teaching, in how we govern ourselves, our societal relationships with nature, our mobilities and our health in cities and suburbs. As the founding director of York University’s City Institute (CITY) (2006-13), I led a large international project on “Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century” (2010-19). A book series with the title Global Suburbanisms and a short monograph on our Suburban Planet capture this work. Subsequently, from 2015-9, I held a York Research Chair in Global Sub/Urban Studies.

The relationship of urbanization and infectious disease has been a main interest of mine from SARS in 2003 to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. My York sociology colleague S.Harris Ali and I have generated a series of highly recognized articles and our edited book Networked Disease (2009) which was named recently as one of “ten books that offer lessons from past pandemics” by the Globe & Mail. I am a co-investigator with Ali and other scholars in an IDRC sponsored research project led on community responses to Ebola in West Africa and the DRC and am currently working on a number of COVID-19 related project.

Research Projects

2022-3 The city after COVID-19: Vulnerability and urban governance in Chicago, Toronto, and Johannesburg

Lead organisers: Roger Keil (York University, Canada), Xuefei Ren (Michigan State University, USA), and Philip Harrison University of Witwatersrand (South Africa). This research project is funded by Urban Studies Foundation - Pandemics and Cities grant.

This study examines the critical role of municipal institutions and their civil society partners in mobilizing resources to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 and improve health and economic equity. The project aims to shore up a gap in the scholarly literature that has emphasized the actions of global institutions and national governments. Focusing on urban regions, we will examine how the pandemic altered or exacerbated existing patterns of vulnerability, how municipal institutions, in conjunction with civil society groups, have alleviated the devastating consequences of the pandemic, and how their interventions evolve after the acute phase of the pandemic passes. Many programs mobilized for COVID-19 equity response represent dramatic transformations in urban governance, in terms of new partnerships being forged between grassroots organizations, citizens, and municipal authorities. We aim to generate a database of policies and programs from the pilot study on Chicago, Toronto, and Johannesburg, and offer explanations on the convergence and divergency of their policy choices. This pilot project will form a basis for the next phase of research on pandemics and urban governance in a more diverse range of cities.

2021-2 Co-applicant, with Nicholas Phelps and Paul Maginn, Urban Studies Foundation seminar series ‘Peripheral centralities’. 

Peripheral centralities have re-entered the public imagination in the form of corporate, university and science city campuses, edge cities, airports, mega-shopping malls, and distribution centres for online retailers. Over the last year, the COVID-19 pandemic has led scholars, practitioners and the media to speculate about the demise of the CBD and the rise of suburbanism as people seek sanctuary in peripheral spaces. This seminar series is hosted by Professor Nicholas Phelps (University of Melbourne), Dr Paul J. Maginn (University of Western Australia), and Professor Roger Keil (York University) and is made possible by the support of the Urban Studies Foundation.

The seminar series brings together a multidisciplinary mix of scholars and practitioners including urban historians, sociologists, geographers, planners, architects, urban designers and property developers to consider the meaning, form, dynamics and significance of peripheral centralities within an era of global extended urbanisation. More information here:

2020-1 Mitacs Accelerate Internship Supervisor, Murat Ucoglu, “Rethinking Housing Market Financing in the Aftermath of COVİD-19: Lessons from and Responses to the Pandemic,” with Tomar Realtor Inc.

This project in the first instance aimed at understanding the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on the housing market. The ongoing crisis that stems from Covid-19 shows that we need to rethink how we finance our housing systems and how to overcome the financialization of housing that limits the options of affordable housing systems. This research will focus on how we can create a more sustainable housing market that can be resilient against global crises. Using the Greater Toronto Area, and especially the 905 suburban communities as a living laboratory during the lockdown and impending reopening, we investigated the existing quantitative data on market activity in the housing markets in the GTA and to add to it focused qualitative research (online surveys and interviews with industry representatives) on experiences during the emergency.  In addition, we considered lessons from the current crisis on how we can finance and organize the housing in accordance with the necessities during future social and health crises. What we need to grasp is about how it would be possible to create new housing systems that can provide a variety of affordable financial systems. A final report on the project is available at request.

2018-20 Co-applicant with Harris Ali (York, PI), Mosoka Fallah (NPHIL, PI) and others, The Role of Social, Cultural and Environmental Factors in Improving Ebola Virus Disease Response and Resilience: Exploring the Potential of Community-Based Initiatives, IDRC Rapid Research Fund for Ebola Virus Outbreaks, $359,989.75.

Our research project can be understood to have two main objectives.

The first is to identify and analyze the social (we use this term to include the cultural, political and economic dimensions) and environmental dimensions of the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) outbreaks in West Africa (Liberia, Sierra Leone) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The second is to use our insights from West Africa to improve existing public health response strategies in the DRC through the application of community-based initiatives.

2018-21 Co-applicant with Raktim Mitra (PI) and others, SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, StudentMoveTO: From Insight to Action on Transportation for Post-secondary Students in the GTHA, $ 199,934

We are a 3-year research and partnership program focusing on an improved understanding of the travel behaviour of 600,000 post-secondary students in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area (GTHA), Canada.

This program will explore transportation patterns of post-secondary students, and the potential social and environmental influences on their travel behaviour, and the effect of students’ travel on their social well-being and urban systems.

Through partnerships between students, researchers,universities, policy makers, and communities, we will create new pathways for public policy, institutional planning and enhanced student support services.

2015-17 Co-applicant with Jonathan Davies (PI), Pierre Hamel et al., ESRC funded consortium project (ES/L012898/1), Collaborative Governance under Austerity: An eight-case Comparative Study. £435,131.

The focus of the project research was how collaboration contributes to the governance of austerity. Governments and public service leaders argue that collaboration with businesses, voluntary organisations and active citizens is essential for addressing the many challenges posed by austerity. The challenges include transforming public services to cope with cuts, changing citizen expectations and managing demand for services and enhancing the legitimacy of difficult policy decisions by involving people outside government in making them.

But at the same time, collaboration can be exclusionary. For example, if there are high levels of protest, governmental and business elites may collaborate in ways that marginalise ordinary citizens to push through unpopular policies. The challenge is to explore different ways in which collaboration works or fails in governing austerity and whether it is becoming more or less important in doing so.

In exploring these issues, Collaborative Governance under Austerity: An Eight-Case Comparative Study aims to learn something about the urban condition in and after austerity, reflecting comparatively on how cities are governed, the role played by citizens and publics and what might have changed through the years of austerity.

2014 Research Grant, Metrolinx, Co-applicant with Sean Hertel, Policy levers to close suburban transportation equity and public benefit gaps in the Toronto region, $39,100.

Next Stop: Equity – Routes to fairer transit access in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area is a landmark report released by CITY in February 2016, urging a call to action for transit equity, as the Province of Ontario continues to roll out a $50-billion investment in 1,200 km rapid transit across the GTHA. The report is a response to widening gaps between affordable housing and employment opportunities that have converged, in combination structural decades-long social inequities that have persisted and worsened in the urban periphery, to make transit service disparities especially severe in suburban areas. Overall, the historic lack of transit investment means many living in the “inner ring” or “905” suburbs of Toronto must either have access to a car or find a home somewhere else.

GTSWG coordinators Sean Hertel and Roger Keil, in collaboration with MES student Michael Collens released Switching Tracks: Towards transit equity in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area in March 2015. This report, based on research funded by Ontario's regional transportation agency Metrolinx, provides a survey of existing research and practice on transit equity and justice. Using insights and examples from around the world, the report notes the importance of making equity concerns a priority in transit planning. It is meant to inspire debate on transit equity in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area.

2010-19 Major Collaborative Research Initiative, Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century (PI, with Robin Bloch, Lisa Drummond, Pierre Filion, Jill Grant, Shubhra Gururani, Pierre Hamel, Richard Harris, Sonia Hirt, Paul Knox, Ute Lehrer, Zhigang Li, Alan Mabin, Jochen Monstadt, Jan Nijman, Jamie Peck, Nicholas Phelps, Rob Shields, Benjamin Solomon, Fulong Wu, Elvin Wyly, Douglas Young); $2,500,000.

Urbanization is at the core of the global economy today. Yet, the crucial aspect of 21st century urban development is suburbanization - defined as an increase in non-central city population and economic activity, as well as urban spatial expansion. It includes all manner of peripheral growth: from the wealthy gated communities of Southern California, to the high rise-dominated suburbs of Europe and Canada, the exploding outskirts of Indian and Chinese cities, and the slums and squatter settlements in Africa and Latin America.

Suburbanism is the growing prevalence of qualitatively distinct 'suburban ways of life'. This Major Collaborative Research Initiative is the first major research project to systematically take stock of worldwide developments.

We analyze recent forms of urbanization and emerging forms of (sub)urbanism as well as the dilemmas of aging suburbanity. We broadly focus on the governance of suburbanization, that is, efforts to guide and regulate its development. It involves state, market and civil society actors and implies democratic deliberation and social conflict. The categories land, which includes housing, shelter systems, real estate, greenbelts, megaprojects, and infrastructure, including transportation, water and social services, serve as the two prime anchors upon which we hinge specific research projects. Examination of Canadian suburbanization and suburbanism will serve as a basis and comparative "control" case to understand suburbanization in the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.

Research Output

FORTHCOMING (ed. with Maria Kaika, Tait Mandler, Yannis Tzaninis) Turning Up the Heat: Urban Political Ecology for a Climate Emergency. Manchester: MUP.

FORTHCOMING (with S.Harris Ali and Creighton Connolly) Pandemic Urbanism. Cambridge: Polity.

2022 (ed. with Fulong Wu) After Suburbia. UTP, Global Suburbanisms series.

2022 (with Jonathan S. Davies (PI and Corresponding Author), Ismael Blanco, Adrian Bua, Ioannis Chorianopoulos, Merce Cortina-Oriol, Niamh Gaynor, Brendan Gleeson, Steven Griggs, Pierre Hamel, Hayley Henderson, David Howarth, Madeleine Pill, Yuni Salazar and Helen Sullivan, New Developments in Urban Governance: Rethinking Collaboration in the Age of Austerity. Bristol: Bristol University Press.

2020 (ed. with Judy Branfman) Don Parson - Public Los Angeles: A Private City’s Activist Futures. University of Georgia Press

2019  (ed. w K. Murat Güney and Murat Üçoğlu) Massive Suburbanization: (Re) Building the Global Periphery (University of Toronto Press Global Suburbanisms series).

2018 Suburban Planet: Making the World Urban from the Outside In. Cambridge: Polity.

2018 (ed. with Xuefei Ren) The Globalizing Cities Reader (Global Cities Reader 2nd ed.). Routledge

2017 (ed. with JA Boudreau, P Hamel & S Kipfer) Governing Cities Through Regions: Canadian and European Perspectives, Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

2015 (ed. with P Hamel) Suburban Governance: A Global View. Toronto: UTP.

2013 (ed.) Suburban Constellations. Berlin: Jovis Verlag.

2011 (ed. with Douglas Young and Patricia Burke Wood), In-Between Infrastructure: Urban Connectivity in an Age of Vulnerability. Kelowna, BC: Praxis(e) Press.

2009 (ed. with Rianne Mahon) Leviathan Undone? Towards a Political Economy of Scale. Vancouver: UBC Press.

2009 (with Julie-Anne Boudreau and Douglas Young) Changing Toronto: Governing Urban Neoliberalism. Toronto: UTP-Broadview Press.

2008 (ed. with Harris Ali) Networked Disease: Emerging Infections in the Global City. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell Studies in Urban and Social Change Series

2006 (ed. with N.Brenner) The Global Cities Reader. London and New York: Routledge 

2004 (with G. Desfor) Nature and the City: Making Environmental Policy in Toronto and Los Angeles (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, Nature and Society Series)

1998 Los Angeles: Globalization, Urbanization, and Social Struggles. Chichester, U.K.: John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 296 pp

Forthcoming (with Samantha Biglieri, Lorenzo De Vidovich, Julian Iacobelli) Health Governance of COVID-19 in Milan and Toronto: Long Term Trends and Short Term Failures (Studies in Political Economy)

2022 (with Samantha Biglieri & Lorenzo De Vidovich) A heuristic device, not an actual map… revisiting the urban periphery, Cities & Health, DOI: 10.1080/23748834.2021.2016284

2022 (with Ahmed Allahwala) The political economy of COVID-19: Canadian and comparative perspectives — an introduction, Studies in Political Economy, 102:3, 233-247, DOI: 10.1080/07078552.2021.2000210

2022 Of Flying Cars and Pandemic Urbanism: Splintering Urban Society in the Age of Covid-19, Journal of Urban Technology, DOI: 10.1080/10630732.2021.2004069

2022 (with S.Harris Ali, Mosoka Fallah, Joseph McCarthy, Creighton Connolly) Mobilizing the Urban Social Infrastructure of Informal Settlements in Infectious Disease Response – The Case of Ebola Virus Disease and COVID-19 in West Africa, Landscape and Urban Planning, 217,

2021 (with Treffers, S., Ali, S. H., & Fallah, M. Extending the boundaries of ‘urban society’: The urban political ecologies and pathologies of Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa. Environment and Planning E: Nature and Space.

2021 (with Murat Üçoğlu) Beyond Sprawl? Regulating Growth in Southern Ontario: Spotlight on Brampton, disP - The Planning Review, 57:3, 100-118, DOI: 10.1080/02513625.2021.2026678

2021 (with Murat Üçoğlu and Seyfi Tomar) Contagion in the Markets? Covid-19 and Housing in the Greater Toronto Area, Built Environment, 47, 3, Autumn, 355-366(12), DOI:

2021 (with J. Iacobelli, S. Biglieri, L. De Vidovich), Covid-19 and the Forgotten Densities of Long-Term Care, Plan Canada 61,2: 21-24.

2021  Höher, weiter, breiter. Die endlose Stadt nach Covid-19: Kommentar zu Stefan Höhne und Boris Michel „Das Ende des Städtischen? Pandemie, Digitalisierung und planetarische Enturbanisierung“. sub\urban. Zeitschrift für Kritische Stadtforschung, 9(1/2), 185–191.

2021 The density dilemma: there is always too much and too little of it, Urban Geography, DOI: 10.1080/02723638.2020.1850025 

2020 (with Michele Acuto, Shaun Larcom, Mehrnaz Ghojeh, Tom Lindsay, Chiara Camponeschi and Susan Parnell) Seeing COVID-19 through an urban lens, Nature Sustainability;

2020 (with Samantha Biglieri and Lorenzo De Vidovich) The City as the Core of Contagion? Repositioning COVID-19 at the social and spatial periphery of urban society, Cities & Health.

2020 The Spatialized Political Ecology of the City: Situated Peripheries and the Capitalocenic Limits of Urban Affairs, Journal of Urban Affairs; 10.1080/07352166.2020.1785305

2020 (with Creighton Connolly and S.Harris Ali) On the Relationships Between COVID-19 and Extended Urbanisation, Dialogues in Human Geography.

2020 (with Dallas Rogers and others) Sound and solidarity on the airwaves: Lessons from the 'COVID City' podcast, Tijdschrift voor economische en sociale geografie / Journal of Economic and Social Geography. DOI:10.1111/tesg.12426

2020 (with Creighton Connolly and S.Harris Ali) Extended urbanisation and the spatialities of infectious disease: Demographic change, infrastructure and governance, Urban Studies,

2020 (with Yannis Tzaninis, Tait Mandler, Maria Kaika) Moving Urban Political Ecology beyond the “Urbanization of Nature”, Progress in Human Geography, DOI: 10.1177/0309132520903350

2020 (with Fulong Wu) Changing the geographies of sub/urban theory: Asian perspectives, Urban Geography,

2019 (with Pierre Hamel) 'La coopération, c’est clé': Montreal’s urban governance in times of austerity, Journal of Urban Affairs, 42:1, 109-124, DOI: 10.1080/07352166.2019.1676647

2019 The city into theory – Theory in Toronto. Contribution to review symposium on Margaret Kohn’s The Death and Life of the Urban CommonwealthInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research.

2018 After Suburbia: research and action in the suburban century, Urban Geography, DOI: 10.1080/02723638.2018.1548828 (Urban Geography Plenary Lecture, AAG 2018).

2018 The empty shell of the planetary: Re-rooting the urban in the experience of the urbanites, Urban Geography. DOI: 10.1080/02723638.2018.1451018

2018 Canadian Suburbia: From the Periphery of Empire to the Frontier of the Sub/Urban Century, Zeitschrift für Kanadastudien, 38, 1, Issue 68

2018 Extended urbanization, “disjunct fragments” and global suburbanisms, Environment and Planning D: Society and Space, 36(3) 494–511

2022 (with Richard Harris) Suburbanization Worldwide, In: Alison Bain and Linda Peake eds. Urbanization in a Global Context. 2nd Edition. Don Mills, ON: OUP, 44-62.

2022 (with Sean Hertel) Fixing postsuburbia: Recalibrating the way think, speak and act upon Toronto’s periphery, in Katrin Anacker and Paul Maginn (eds.) Suburbia in the 21st Century: From Dreamscape to Nightmare. London and New York: Routledge, 25-39.

2021 (with Lorenzo De Vidovich, Samantha Biglieri and Julian Iacobelli) The view from the socio-spatial peripheries: Milan, Italy and Toronto, Canada, In: Pierre Filion, Brian Doucet, and Rianne Van Melik (eds.) Global Reflections on COVID-19 and Urban Inequalities, Volume 4, Bristol: Bristol University Press, 211-221.

2021 COVID-19: Pandemic on an urban planet, In: Gavin J. Andrews, Valorie Crooks, Jamie Pearce, Janey Messina (eds.) COVID-19 and Similar Futures: Geographical perspectives, issues and agendas, Springer, 259-65.

2020 (with Jean-Paul Addie and Rob Fiedler) Cities on the edge: Suburban constellations in Canada, in Markus Moos, Tara Vinodrai and Ryan Walker (eds.) Canadian Cities in Transitions, Sixth edition, Toronto: OUP.

2020 (with Derek Brunelle) Government, politics, and suburbanization in Los Angeles, In: Jan Nijman, ed. The Life of North American Suburbs (University of Toronto Press Global Suburbanisms series), 289-306.

2019 (with Pierre Filion and Nina Pulver) Introduction: Suburban Infrastructures as Vehicles of Integration and Fragmentation, In: Pierre Filion and Nina Pulver, eds. Global Suburban Infrastructure: Social Restructuring, Governance and Equity. (University of Toronto Press Global Suburbanisms series).

2019 (with K. Murat Güney and Murat Üçoğlu) Introduction: Massive Suburbanization – Political Economy, Ethnography, Governance, In: K. Murat Güney, Roger Keil and Murat Üçoğlu, eds. Massive Suburbanization: (Re) Building the Global Periphery (University of Toronto Press Global Suburbanisms series).

2019 (with K. Murat Güney and Murat Üçoğlu) Conclusion: Massive Suburbia: From Legacy of the Habitat to the Financialization of Housing in the Planetary Periphery, In: K. Murat Güney, Roger Keil and Murat Üçoğlu, eds. Massive Suburbanization: (Re) Building the Global Periphery (University of Toronto Press Global Suburbanisms series).

2019 Paved Paradise: The Suburb as Chief Artifact of the Anthropocene and Terrain of New Political Performativities, in Henrik Ernstson and Erik Swyngedouw (eds.) Interrupting the Anthropo-ob(S)cene: Political Possibilities in the Natures of Cities, Routledge.

2021 Column: The “after time”. How do we know what normal to plan for? disP - The Planning Review, 56:4,

2020 Column: The Space and Time a Pandemic Makes, disP - The Planning Review, 56:3

2020 (with Mitra, R., Habib, K. N., Siemiatycki, M., and Bowes, J.) StudentMoveTO - From Insight to Action on Transportation for Post-Secondary Students in the GTHA: 2019 Transportation Survey Findings. Web portal:

2020 Column: The Life of Technology and the Technologies of Living, disP - The Planning Review, 56:2, 4-7, DOI: 10.1080/02513625.2020.1794116

2020 Global urbanization created the conditions for the current coronavirus pandemic, The Conversation, June 18;

2020 An urban political ecology for a world of cities, Commentary, Special Issue, Urban Studies.

2020 (with Creighton Connolly and S.Harris Ali) Outbreaks like coronavirus start in and spread from the edges of cities, The Conversation, February 17,

2020 Column: The limits of global urbanization and the challenges to planning, disP, 220 · 56,1: 4-7.

2019 (with Paul Maginn) The suburbs can help cities in the fight against climate change, The Conversation, December 9, 

Recognition & Awards

  • York President's Research Excellence Award


Course CodeTitle
ENVS5023 Global Cities
ENVS1210Cities, Regions and Planning in a Globalizing World