RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2016


Housing practices, informality and the global north

Research Group Affiliation(s)
Urban Geography Research Group
The term informality has gained significant currency and has largely been applied to the studies of economic and development processes occurring in the global south. While informality has become the ‘idiom of urbanization’ (Roy 2009) in the global south, its uptake in the study of urbanization in the global north has been somewhat limited (Ward 1999, 2003; Mukhija and Loukaitou-Sideris 2014). Yet, such moves to use ‘southern theory’ to explain urban dynamics in the global north are increasingly necessary. If urban informality is a global phenomenon, there is a need to study and conceptualise how informality emerges in a differentiated form, in the global north too, especially as we see paradigmatic shifts in economic activities. As countries in the global north undergo significant economic restructuring, ranging from the scaling back of welfare states to the encouragement of more ‘entrepreneurial’ and private responses to public needs, we are witnessing important changes to processes and forms of urbanisation. Questions therefore arise about the rights and agency of the urban poor together with the role of the state as a mediator and a provider of rights, rules and privileges. Thus, theories of informality that have served well for the global south appear well placed to meet the challenge of understanding emerging forms of urban development and socio-economic relationships in the global north.

This session invites paper submissions that explore the ways in which informality may be unfolding across cities of the global north. With a particular focus on housing, we welcome papers that engage in a critical discussion that bridges theories from the south and the north. How do we understand and theorise the nexus between informality, housing and processes of urban transformation in the global north? What kinds of case studies can be explored and discussed to shed light on the particular (or general?) forms taken by urban informality in so-called ‘global north’ cities?

While we encourage a wide range of theoretical and methodological reflections on these issues, we are keen to focus in particular on the following themes:

1) Dismantling formality: what are the practices and actors that inform shifts from formality to informality in the global north? How to conceptualise the role of the state and public institutions in processes of urban informalisation?

2) Emerging celebratory discourses of urban informality: how are informal housing practices (self-organised, sharing economy) perceived and conceived in urban discourse and policy? How is urban informality being celebrated as resourceful and entrepreneurial practice?
Instructions for Authors
Please provide author name(s), author affiliation(s), author email(s), paper title, paper abstract (~200 words) and an indication of which author(s) will be presenting.

Please submit this information to Mara Ferreri, University of Durham mara.ferreri@durham.ac.uk and Nancy Holman n.e.holman@lse.ac.uk by Friday 12 February 2016. We will notify all authors of whether their paper can be accommodated in the session by 16 February at the latest (this will allow the conference deadline of 19 February to be met).
Call For Papers Deadline
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