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Urban informality in the North and South - imaginaries and recompositions

21 feb 2022 16:10 - 04 mar 2022 00:00
IAS of Paris,
17 quai d'Anjou, 75004

Call for papers for a conference and doctoral training workshop to be held on April 7th, 2022, organized by Elieth Eyebiyi (Paris IAS, CESSMA) Saskia Cousin (Paris Nanterre, Sophiapol).

Research on informality generally focuses on the so-called informal sectors, with an emphasis on societies in the South, using geography, urban sociology and economics. However, as a process, informality remains consubstantial to all societies in the North and South and offers a wider field of analysis, at the confluence of many disciplines, social and professional practices. Moreover, research works tend to maintain a certain artificial dichotomy between urban and rural spaces. It is therefore appropriate to question informality from a multidisciplinary perspective that transcends the question of labour and gives space to the study of imaginaries, processes, practices.

This workshop aims to examine the extent to which urbanity and informality enter into dialogue or confrontation, define or recompose themselves, under what modalities and temporalities, and this from various geographical spaces (North and South). Specifically, the aim will be to question on the one hand the (new) faces of informality in urban and semi-urban spaces, and their imaginaries, with a focus on cross-border spaces as much as possible. On the other hand, attention will be paid to the analysis of temporalities, and urban imaginaries of informality. It will also investigate the risks and opportunities as perceived on the ground and to which the processes of informalization give life, as well as the games of actors of the stakeholders.

  • Urban imaginaries, risks and opportunities of informality

Dealing with informality requires an understanding of various imaginaries and practices. These quickly appear to be the relational substratum necessary for the development of so-called informal activities, and the cluster of interactions, negotiations, continuities and ruptures necessary for their expression. In the same way, the risks and opportunities to which the processes of informalization of societies refer, their perception, their manifestations and their management in various societies, will be examined. From a multidisciplinary perspective (sociology, geography, anthropology, urban planning, etc.), this line of research includes critical reflections on the imaginary of informality in the city as well as in urban extensions. On the other hand, works questioning the deconstruction of myths and preconceptions affecting the analysis of informalities in various fields are encouraged.

  • Informalities, temporalities and urban recompositions

The spaces and temporalities of informality constitute the second axis of this workshop. Inscribing informality in the context of mobilities, particularly in cities and their peripheries, seems promising for examining the fluctuations, inflections or even immobilities in (and through) which various activities (gold panning, operation of bus stations, motorbike taxis, etc.) and multiple technologies (local adaptations, circulation of knowledge and skills, uses, etc.) can be deployed. In these contexts, the papers proposed may pay attention to the ways in which knowledge, technologies and uses circulate in urban environments, as well as to their influences on urban spaces. The axis also welcomes work focusing on the relationship to time (night, day, other temporal divisions) and specific places that can be considered as focal points of daily activity (bus or train stations, landing stages, gold mining sites, borders, etc.), but is not limited to them. The aim is to question the links between informality and urbanity through the mediation of objects, 'hard' or 'soft' infrastructures, while examining the ways in which actors take charge of the possible associated risks.


Paper proposals (Short CV + An abstract of max. 500 words) in French or English shall be sent to eelieth@yahoo.fr  by March, 4th, 2022. Acceptance will be notified by March 11th, 2022.

Call for PhD training Workshop

The conference will include a PhD training workshop, to be held on April 7th, 2022. PhD candidates based in France or border countries, and interested broadly by the issues of informal economies /urbanity/ risks, margins, cities,.., are encouraged to apply by sending a short CV and an abstract of their thesis project (only in French) through this Link (https://forms.gle/1nWaQY5Fa4i7WUWu5) by March 4th, 2022. Acceptance will be notified by March 11th, 2022.


AlSayyad, N. 2004. Urban informality as a “new” way of life. In A. Roy & N. Alsayyad (Eds.), Urban informality: transnational perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America and South Asia (pp. 7–30). Lexington: Oxford.

Beck U., 2001. La société du risque. Sur la voie d’une autre modernité, translate from German by L. Bernardi. Paris, Aubier, 521 p.

De Certeau, M. et al., 1990. L’invention du quotidien. Paris: Gallimard.

Davis, D., 2006. “The age of security: violence and social disorder in the New Latin America”, Latin American Research Review, 41(1): 178-197.

Eyebiyi, E., 2016. "Etudier l'Etat à partir de l'informalité. Répression et résistances autour du commerce informel de carburant", Lien Social et Politique, 76 : 77-95.

Jacquot, S. et M. Morelle, 2018. ‘’ Comment penser l’informalité dans les villes «du Nord», à partir des théories urbaines «du Sud»? ‘’. Métropoles [En ligne], 22 | 2018, mis en ligne le 25 avril 2018. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/metropoles/5601

Roy, A., 2009, « Why India Cannot Plan Its Cities: Informality, Insurgence and the Idiom of Urbanization », Planning Theory, 8 (1): 76-87.

Roy, A. et AlSayyad, N. (eds.)., 2004, Urban Informality. Transnational Perspectives from the Middle East, Latin America, and South Asia, Lexington Books, Lanham.

McFarlane, C., 2012. Rethinking informality: politics, crisis and the city. Planning Theory and Practice 13.1, 89–108.

The economies of informality: fuel smuggling, risks and urbanity in West Africa
01 September 2021 - 30 June 2022
04 Mar 2022 00:00
Elieth Eyebiyi
Calls for proposals