Midterm Conference: A Suburban Revolution?

Breaking: You can now read the Roundtable Report of the Greater Toronto Suburban Working Group here.


On-site registration is available at the conference.

A Suburban Revolution?

An international conference on bringing the fringe to the centre of global urban research and practice

The City Institute at York University (CITY)
York University | Keele Campus | Toronto, Ontario, Canada

September 26-28, 2013

All attendees will receive a copy of the newly published Suburban Constellations, edited by Roger Keil.


This conference marks the midterm of the Major Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI) Global Suburbanisms: Governance, Land and Infrastructure in the 21st Century sponsored by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). The conference will be of interest to all researchers and practitioners of suburbanization and suburbanism worldwide. In its global scope and appeal across disciplines and fields of practice, it is the first one of its kind.

Global Suburbanisms

More than half of the world’s population lives in cities. While the impact and meaning of this fact is up for debate, it is clear that it has shifted the discussion from development as a rural to urban imperative to urbanization as a multi-faceted process, which includes all manner of contradictory aspects: continued domestic and international migration from the land to urban settlements, growth and shrinkage, urban metabolic shifts, infrastructure investments, labour markets, spectacular urbanism, social revolutions, changes in gender roles, creative cities and so forth. (Sub)Urbanization marks the moment of our shared experience as planetary citizens.

A Suburban Revolution

While often referred to as an ‘urban revolution,’ most urban growth worldwide in the 21st century takes the form of peripheral or suburban development. Much of what counts as “urbanization” today is generalized suburbanization. Despite widespread normative preferences in planning and city building for a dense and centralized urban form, suburbanization remains the dominant mode in which cities are built. Whether by choice or by force, builders, residents and workers, rich and poor, construct, live and work in urban peripheries around the world. The universality of the suburban experience and the boundless divergence in its real processes and outcomes are on the agenda of urban scholars and activists today.


The conference will be structured in five interlocking theme areas. Several panels will be running simultaneously in the following theme areas:

1. Understanding suburbanization: an exploration of the ways of knowing the suburbs, suburbanization and suburbanism; methodology; tools; naming; benchmarking; mapping; comparativity, etc. Track chair: Markus Moos, University of Waterloo

2. Governance: the way states, capital and private households build and maintain suburbanization as a process; suburbs as places and suburbanisms as ways of life; planning and urban policy. Track chair: Pierre Hamel, Université de Montreal

3. Land: the development and redevelopment of suburban land; densities; core-periphery; formal and informal land markets; polynuclearity; growth machines; shrinkage, etc. Track chair: Richard Harris, McMaster University

4. Infrastructure: the ways in which hard and soft infrastructures enable the building of suburban landscapes; splintering; mobility; flows and places, etc. Track chair: Pierre Filion, University of Waterloo

5. Regions: In a separate track that runs along the thematic areas, regional panels have been created that showcase work on different geographic areas of the world. 


The Suburban Revolution Conference will be held from September 26-29th, 2013 at York University's Keele Campus. The Preliminary Program for this conference features presentations from nine Keynote Speakers, eight Panel Discussions on the key theme areas, guided tours of various suburban landscapes within Toronto, and evening events. 

For more information on places to stay, please visit our Accommodations page.

For more information on getting to the Keele Campus, please visit our Directions page and click here for information about finding the conference venues on campus.

Presentation Abstracts and our  program (as of Sept. 17) are now both available.

Guidelines for presenters are available here. 

Please continue to check back for updates as more details will be posted as they become available. We look forward to seeing you in Toronto in September 2013!

For more information, please contact suburban@yorku.ca

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada through funding from the Major Collaborative Research Initiative “Global suburbansims: governance, land, and infrastructure in the 21st century (2010-2017).



Conference sponsors: