Challenging the formal/informal dichotomy
The African Urban Research Initiative (AURI) is co-hosting a methods workshop from 6 to 10 May 2019, in Lusaka, Zambia, focused on the formal/informal interface at the city scale. The Formal-Informal Interface Workshop emerges from ongoing comparative research conducted under the umbrella of AURI which, aims at challenging the dichotomy between informal and formal areas, delving into the interfaces that link these spaces. It centres around the interactions and flows that connect these areas rather than treating them as two discrete entities.
What is considered ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ is marked by unequal distribution of resources yet informality holds the ability to transcend its inherently marginal condition, seeking out access to resources in innovative ways. Crossing from the informal into the formal often occurs, either to access education and health services or to trade on the formal market. However, this crossing is not limited to those specific instances: informality, in essence, molds itself to existing conditions and overlaps creatively with the formal city.
This is clearly illustrated in the research conducted by CLUSTER on street vendors in Cairo, Egypt and the Centre of Urban Research and Planning on the organization of the Soweto market in Lusaka, Zambia. Furthermore, the CityLab meetings and urban walks undertaken at IHSS demonstrate complex vertical and horizontal processes in the access of basic infrastructure and the occupation of space in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. And finally the question of sprawl and quality of housing addressed by Laboratoire Citoyenneté in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso reveals the need for the co-production of contextual knowledge to reduce urban poverty through cross disciplinary engagement.
It is against this background that, the workshop seeks to explore the methods behind the research and propose a roadmap for developing a set of tools that could be used to better understand, explain and illustrate the nature and dynamics of informality beyond the formal/informal dichotomy.