Contemporary politics of informality: encounters between the "formal" and "informal" African city
Date and Start Time 30 June, 2017 at 16:00
The panel aims to explore the contemporary politics of informality in Africa´s cities focusing on various facets of the encounter between the "formal" and the "informal" city, their set of rules, institutions and actors.
The panel aims to engage with one of the broad questions of the conference, i.e. whether and how urbanization undermines or fosters efforts at overcoming inequalities. We seek to investigate various facets of the encounter between the "formal" and the "informal" city, their set of rules, institutions and actors. The politics of informality is often viewed in terms of a binary opposition between the "informal" actors as opposing state power and the "formal" actors supporting the state. We argue that the relations between "informal" actors and the state cannot be reduced to such antagonism. Many urban dwellers operate across the "formal-informal continuum", which opens up the possibility of exchange and collaboration but also creates tensions. The "formal" and "informal" city meet at a whole host of interfaces, issues such as urban land use, housing, trade and business. Though the two "worlds" are governed by different rules and their encounter may entail tension and conflict, there is ample space for diverse alliances across the formal-informal divide. The panel seeks ethnographically informed papers offering a nuanced understanding of the nature of relations between "informal" actors and the "formal" power in African cities. The focus is on how "informal" actors negotiate state regulation, how they contest policies, how they claim recognition and basic socio-economic rights and how processes of inclusion and exclusion operate. Given the diversity of interests and actors in today's informal activities we particularly seek papers that investigate the political subjectivities of informal actors and their associations.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.
Colonial urban planning systems and today's reality
Keywords: informal urban development, planning standards, Tanzania, planning history, participation
In Sub-Saharan Africa urbanization is progressing at a rate unprecedented in human history. In most countries, the state is not in a position to apply a responsive legal framework and to mobilize adequate resources to guide urbanization. A major obstacle are the outdated legal framework, its institutional set-up and the inappropriate planning concepts inherited from colonial governments which often contradict post colonial policies and are unsuitable to respond to rapid urban growth.
The paper will present results of a joint research analyzing empirically factors on space standards and land use in prevalent types of formally planned and informal settlements in Dar es Salaam as well as the stakeholders involved in planning decision. To understand the current urbanisation there is the need to understand its history: The paper will analyze the historical development of urban planning, its legislation and the physical outcomes as settlement pattern on the ground.
In Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, now informal settlements cover more than 70% of the city areas because the statutory system cannot provide sufficient building land and settlers have to find plots on the informal land market. It shows the need for a new approach to statutory planning in order to guide urban development effectively, to create more functional settlements, to assist the urban poor to access affordable plots with basic services. Or with other words, there is a need to rethink urban planning for a weak institutional environment and develop an idea and a model for urbanization Africa under poverty.
Urbanization in practice: the (in)convenient gray zone
The paper presents and analyses the case study of a contested public space gone private. It more particularly deals with repertoires used by different social actors involved in the conflict, to stake their claims over an allotted plot of land in Bouaké, Côte d’Ivoire.
This paper contributes to the production of knowledge on the intertwined links between urban planning and practices used by urban dwellers on the ground. Drawing on a 12 month fieldwork conducted from 2014 to 2016, I analyze an ongoing conflict opposing a traders' association and the Administration authorities, over the use of a market place in Bouaké, Côte d'Ivoire. Part of the said plot of land, officially designed as a "réserve administrative" on the allotments' plans, has been divided during the Ivorian crisis and used as a residential area. At the end of the crisis in 2011, the traders' association increasingly denounced the occupation of part of their market space. They demanded that the "official rules" should be followed, and a "réserve administrative" should strictly stick to its function of public use, to which the Administrative authorities replied that the usage of public space in the urban planning scheme is the sole responsibility of the State. A closer look to the uncover side of the iceberg however shows that the opposing parties do not constitute fixed monolithic blocs, and there are also shifting interests at stake over the course of time. I argue that urban planning is not only a key component of urban governance, but it is also used as a tool to make various claims - depending on the interests at stake - in a game of musical chairs, where the same social actor can either be qualified as "official" or "officious", and "formal" or "informal".
Rambo-style urban management in Accra, Ghana and strategies for dealing with the threat of evictions
The paper will look at the politics of urban evictions in squatter communities in Ghana. I shall trace the political imageries that prop up the demolitions and I give special focus to the strategies of squatters to secure their place in the city.
In 2015, President of Ghana John Mahama ordered a nationwide demolition of illegal structures such as homes built on others' land. The Mayor of Accra referred to one of the resultant demolitions as the "greatest decision since Independence". The literature on evictions places them front and centre of the current developments in urban governmentality (Ghertner) and neoliberal economy (Sassen). At the same time, there is a need to understand eviction in their specificity. What do evictions tell about changing land politics? What do they say about how financially-strapped state budgets work? What is their significance to those in power and their audiences?
In as much as these are invasive urban measures, evictions and the threat thereof are also everyday realities that shape the lives of less privileged (often migrant) city-dwellers. How do people fight to inhabit a place for longer and push against the loom of evictions? How do they navigate what Appadurai points to as one of the great (legal and political) challenges of living in a slum: "the legalities of urban government and the illegal arrangements to which the poor almost always have to resort".
Based on my 4 months of research in the biggest squatter community in Accra, my paper by pointing in the directions of the specificities of evictions in Accra suggests new and possible categories that are important for considering evictions: state budgets, media, urban environment.
Filling the Void of Post-Apartheid: Miracles of the Zion Christian Church in the Life of South African Township Dweller
Through an experience of a middle-aged male township dweller, the paper looks at the role the Zion Christian Church in South Africa plays in people’s lives, providing them not only with sensible orientation in the situation of deterritorialization but also with a range of practical opportunities.
Brief look at the literature reveals that, in African post-colonial context, the 'in/formal' distinction is usually used to describe economic phenomena. With regard to urban environments, the ways human settlements are built becomes the main concern, its histories, spatial relations and infrastructure, and how these factors determine people's lives, again, mainly in terms of their economic activities. In my paper, I would like to blur and broaden the 'in/formal' conceptual framework by including indigenous religious institutions as powerful actors literally filling the void left by the apartheid and post-apartheid state. The Zion Christian Church, the largest African indigenous church in South Africa, has not only played a major role in mending people's souls and bodies crushed by apartheid structures and left behind by post-apartheid success story but it has also played a practical role in providing its members with job opportunities, financial assistance, student bursaries and extended social networks of mutual trust to rely on in bad times. In may paper, I do not intend to cover the range of its economic activities, instead I shall focus on an experience - as narrated, observed and analysed in songs - of a church member and Mamelodi township dweller of rural origin who had been the subject of my long-term ethnographic biographically focused research between 2006 and 2011. I believe that his grassroots perspective may help to shed new light on the role of religious institutions as crucial players filling the spaces left by post-colonial states with alternative solutions irreducible to the 'in/formal' dichotomy.
Social strategies and the negotiation of legitimacy of witch-finders in Lusaka city.
The paper attempts to demonstrate how the social status, professional position and authority of witch-finders in Lusaka city is socially constructed within the formal and informal sector of traditional medicine.
The paper attempts to demonstrate how the social status, professional position and authority of witch-finders (mchape) in Lusaka city is socially constructed within the formal and informal sector of traditional medicine. The author analyses divers social strategies that the witch-finders use to negotiate their legitimacy vis-à-vis the competition from a large number of "official" traditional healers and spiritual healers from the African Christian Independent Churches.
Since the late 1990s, the quest for services of traditional healers specialised in witch-finding has gained popularity, particularly amongst the impoverished Lusaka compound-dwellers. Due to the increasing public violence against those denoted as witches, the activities of witch-finders were officially banned by the Witchcraft Act in 1995 and this profession is not officially recognised by the Constitution of Traditional Health Practitioners Association of Zambia (THAPAZ). In spite of the prohibition, there remain many witch-finders in Lusaka covering themselves under the certificate of proficiency as herbalists, diviners or spiritual healers. They practise witch-finding secretly, in order not to commit an offence they do not openly denounce the name of an alleged witch. Their authority and vocational legitimacy is threatened by many "official" as well as "unofficial" competitors in the city and it must be constantly reaffirmed and negotiated by introducing innovations. The ability to keep clients and to gain a good reputation thus depends on the originality of their diagnostic and therapeutic procedures. At the same time witch-finders must counter divers obstacles and uncertainties resulting from their illegal status within the sector of traditional medicine.
This panel is closed to new paper proposals.