Urbanization in practice: the (in)convenient gray zone
Paper short abstract:
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.
Paper long abstract:
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".
Contemporary politics of informality: encounters between the "formal" and "informal" African city