Urban Informality and the daily control of social life / STREAM D – Urban informality: from plan to everyday life

Organizer: Daniela Vicherat Mattar (Leiden University College The Hague, NL); Gabriel de Santis Feltran (Federal University of São Carlos, CMS and CEBRAP, BR)

Contact: d.a.vicherat.mattar@luc.leidenuniv.nl; gabrielfeltran@gmail.com

Cities today are not only growing but they are also changing rapidly. On very different scales, from politics to popular culture, from housing to labour markets, informality –i.e. regulatory systems and practices operating outside the scope of state actors– is spreading and increasing its influence. This phenomenon does not only characterizes cities of the global south, but also major cities in the north. Along informality, daily life in cities is marked worldwide by increasing insecurity and the rise of technologies of securitization. The desire to further safe and secure societies seems to be dominated by rather technical discourses and policies emphasising intense surveillance mechanisms, incrimination of difference and punishments. Public discourses tend to polarize these solutions based in an old and too ideal antagonism between those included and those who are not, legal and illegal cities, which simplifies the multi-layered character of social inclusion and all pervasive forms of exclusion. This apparent antagonism is understood as the source of social conflicts, and is resolved by means of extensive segregation and proliferation of gated communities, private security, and intensified incrimination and incarceration policies. Yet, these measures elude the complexities of conflicts, power, inequalities and risk that shape urban communities, and the capacity of lay city-residents to resist (or not) violence, seeking alternative and more peaceful forms of conviviality. In this sense, our cities have become rather dystopian sites in the search for order and security under the mantra of neoliberal freedom. Are in this context, as David Harvey explored in the early 2000s, any “spaces of hope”?

In this panel we seek to explore in practice what has been described currently as military urbanism and its informal manifestations on daily basis. The session focuses on investigating various aspects, practices and performances of how informal security practices –from private policing and neighbours watching, to gangs, warlords and militias–  affect (define, shape, make possible or inhibit) urban life. Guiding, but not exclusive, themes are:

  • Forms of urban militarization, securitization, planning and control of urban areas: formal and/or informal?
  • Causes of informal and even extra-legal security practices: individual / communitarian?
  • Informality as a source of risk, uncertainty, but also as source of alternatives and urban  transformation ;
  • Existing alignments in the apparent contradiction between state planned security strategies and existing informal actors ;
  • Informal security strategies: a curse or a blessing?

The aim is to discuss these issues in a comparative perspective, to explore the commonalities between cities in the north and the south in what we see as an expanding feudalisation of hyper-modern cities.

D2 Urban Informality and the daily control of social life 

Chairs: Daniela Vicherat Mattar (Leiden University College The Hague) Gabriel de Santis Feltran (Federal University of São Carlos, CMS and CEBRAP)

Contact: d.a.vicherat.mattar@luc.leidenuniv.nl gabrielfeltran@gmail.com

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Martin Lamotte
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Lennert Jongh
Informal Street and Market Vendors’ Challenges and Strategies: Examples from Urban Zambia and Malawi

Sobia Ahmad Kaker
Circulating uncertainty: Information and insecurity in Karachi

Distributed Papers

Daniel Agbiboa
‘This is Lagos’: everyday life and everyday survival in Africa’s largest metropolis

Fabio Vanin Olivia Casagrande
Urban Informality and the daily control of social life

Nabil Kamel
Weapons of the weak: Urban form and everyday resistance tacticsin Phoenix

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