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Problematising density: COVID-19, the crowd, and urban life

Joiner, Abigail; McFarlane, Colin; Rella, Ludovico; Uriarte-Ruiz, Michelle

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Abigail Joiner

Michelle Uriarte-Ruiz


The COVID-19 pandemic dramatically transformed the fundamentals of city management and everyday life. Density has been at the centre of this transformation. But how were densities managed during the pandemic? What are the political implications? And how did people come to perceive and experience densities? Drawing on research in five British cities – Birmingham, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Manchester, and Newcastle – we argue that the pandemic produced a set of new problematisations of density. Those problematisations brought multiple concerns into connection with density: control and rights, the politics of crowds and protest, differential susceptibility to infection, changing orientations to the urban future, and patterns of social anxiety, trust and blame. We seek to advance research in Geography and Urban Studies on how urban densities are governed and experienced, on the urban dimensions of COVID-19, and on how an attention to density generates insight into the social and political life of cities.


Joiner, A., McFarlane, C., Rella, L., & Uriarte-Ruiz, M. (2022). Problematising density: COVID-19, the crowd, and urban life. Social and Cultural Geography,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Oct 2, 2022
Online Publication Date Nov 12, 2022
Publication Date Nov 12, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 5, 2022
Publicly Available Date Dec 7, 2022
Journal Social and Cultural Geography
Print ISSN 1464-9365
Electronic ISSN 1470-1197
Publisher Taylor and Francis Group
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
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Published Journal Article (Advance Online Version) (670 Kb)

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Copyright Statement
Advance Online Version © 2022 The Author(s). Published by Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group.
This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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