In the last decade, there has been a resurgence in studies of informality. Moving beyond the commonly used formal/informal dichotomy, this panel aims at developing a novel analytical framework for understanding the intertwining of the formal and the informal in governance and politics.
In the last decade, in anthropology and other disciplines, there has been a resurgence in studies of informality. Scholarship has taken exciting new approaches to informality and its intersections with politics. The debates on informality are mainly structured along dichotomous formal/informal or legal/illegal lines, where government/law equates to formality, or along the Global North/Global South divide, in which the North stands for formality and the South equals informality. Recently a more nuanced understanding has emerged. In this view, the formal and the informal are always and everywhere intertwined. The economy, human settlements or politics are never structured only along institutional lines, but are also enacted in personalized actions and transactions. Domains that seem very formal also contain informal practices. Likewise, domains that seem very informal are also shaped by formal procedures and arrangements. In this panel, we will move beyond the formal/informal dichotomy and aim to develop a novel analytical framework for understanding how formal and informal practices are interconnected. Papers will address questions such as: How does movement from informality to formality, or vice versa, affect the dynamics of a field of practice and its consequences for different groups of people? Does formalization increase the potential for social mobility, or close off paths that are only available because of uncertain legal status? We are particularly interested in the implications of these changing views and dynamics for governance and politics at all scales.