This panel brings together diverse ethnographic studies that empirically or theoretically address and explore the reciprocal relationship between what we tend to denote as the formal and informal in contemporary global economy and politics.
The formal–informal dichotomy is central to our understanding of practices pertaining to e.g. the economy, politics, power, organizations, the state, market. Too often, however, one tend to compartmentalise what one describes and analyses in terms of the formal and the informal. Current scholarship increasingly challenges this dualistic paradigm by rather focusing on how formal and informal are interconnected and mutually constitutive. Notwithstanding institutional assumptions on the need of formalizing the informal, it is widely recognized how informal practices have become a constitutive feature in the contemporary restructuring of the global economy and politics. Informality does not stand as a shortcoming of 'underdeveloped' or fragile economies, but it lies at core of the global regime of accumulation, its functioning and articulation. This panel brings together papers that theoretically and empirically explore the reciprocity between the formal and the informal and how they interfere, support, undermine or subvert each other, with the aim of comparing different articulations of formality and informality in contemporary global economy and politics. Addressing a variety of subjects, the contributions look at various articulations of the interrelationship between the formal and informal, characterized by different power configurations, ranging from collaborative exchanges and reciprocity to exploitative forms of subordination and global governance. Seeking to untangle the complex relationships between situated practices and the global economy and politics, the panel aims at shedding light on the articulation of institutional actors – state, market, international organizations – and the informality that underpin their actual functioning.