The Rules That Govern Peoplexs Lives: Informality in Tallinn, Bafatá and Berlin

Monday, July 14, 2014: 11:00 AM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Hanna HILBRANDT , Department of Geography, The Open University, United Kingdom
Susana NEVES ALVES , University College London, United Kingdom
Tauri TUVIKENE , University College London, United Kingdom
Urban research has long related informality to a lack of state capacity or a failure of institutions. This assumption not only lacks attention to the heterogeneous logics and relations through which informality is produced by multiple actors in- and outside of the state, it has also created a dividing line between states. Whereas some states are understood to manage urban development through a coherently functioning state apparatus, others presumably fail to regulate.

To unmake and reframe such understandings this paper offers a theoretical exploration into the ways in which informality is infused in contemporary urban development in both the north and the south. Based on a comparison of three case studies in Tallinn (Estonia), Berlin (Germany) and Bafatá (Guinea-Bissau), our line of argumentation focuses on the ways in which local state agencies are entangled in the workings of informality. Drawing on these cases, we suggest that if we seek to account for the similarities and differences in the informalization of cities across the globe we need to reconsider the role of states. First, state institutions shape urban development through everyday negotiations, legal incoherencies and regulatory ambiguities. Second, people´s lives are not only governed by the state, but also by alternative forms of rule and institutions that exist beyond the state. It follows that allegedly informal processes can similarly be understood as a form of formality, while what appears as formal might work through multiple informal relations. Our comparison, then, aims to work towards an understanding of informality that is more attuned to the multiple roles adopted by different actors involved in urban processes and the power relations that are mobilized in this process.