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Panel 49. Bridging the Gap: Understanding the complex relationship between popular urbanisation and the State    


  • Francesca Ferlicca, Postdoctoral scholar at the Instituto de Estudios de América Latina y el Caribe de la Universidad – IEALC (Universidad de Buenos Aires)
  • Giovanna Monteiro, PhD Student at Instituto de Estudos Sociais e Políticos (Universidade Estadual do Rio de Janeiro – UERJ)


Research into informality has evolved into a longstanding and interdisciplinary endeavor, exploring various dimensions such as housing (Lombard, 2014), land use (de Soto, 2001), economy (Hart, 1973; Portes, 1983), and labor (ILO, 1972). Urban theory has significantly advanced this discourse, particularly since the turn of the millennium (Simone, 2004a; Roy, 2009c; Yiftachel, 2009). Our focus is on the existing research that delves into informality’s interface with urban planning, delineating two primary approaches. The first approach scrutinizes popular urbanization through the perspective of the urban poor and informal dwellers, acknowledging their strategies and resistance tactics. Conversely, the second approach interprets informality as a consequence of planning frameworks and state actions, shedding light on their reinforcing role. Both approaches deeply engage with the extent of state involvement and its flexibility in negotiations, although they do so from distinct angles. In light of this, our objective is to build on the invaluable contributions of these two bodies of literature, presenting a fresh framework that comprehensively characterizes the intricate dynamics between popular urbanization and planning in practical terms.

This session critically examines the relationship between popular urbanisation and the state, emphasizing a comparative perspective that spans diverse geographical locations. We specifically seek comparative cases that highlight connections and contrasts between informal settlements and the state in both the Global North and South. Submissions are encouraged to interlink manifestations of informality from different regions, aiming to uncover common survival strategies and varying contexts of vulnerability. The session probes into questions such as the similarities and differences in physical conditions and daily routines across settlements, ranging from favelas in Rio to Roma camps in Rome. It also explores how informal dwellers navigate tensions with real estate interests and urban authorities in cities across hemispheres, and when localized struggles connect with transnational housing movements.

By engaging in a comparative exploration of popular urbanisation, we aim to stimulate dialogue and foster new theoretical perspectives. Beyond shedding light on distinct challenges like migration in the Global North versus endemic poverty in the Global South, contributors may unveil everyday resilience strategies that resonate across diverse communities. By redirecting academic focus to urban peripheries worldwide, this session strives to broaden mainstream narratives on informality.

Potential topics for exploration encompass, but are not confined to:

  • Comparative analysis of different forms of housing informality
  • Changing materiality and lived experiences in settlements
  • Housing-related collective action across borders
  • Informal housing in relation to real estate and governance
  • Representations of popular urbanisation’ residents
  • Gender dimensions of informality

We hope this session offers a platform to articulate the shared struggles of the urban marginalized, recognizing key differences, and enriching our comparative examination of housing precarity in the 21st-century metropolis.

Centro de Estudios de Conflicto y Cohesión Social.

Diagonal Paraguay 257,
Torre 26, Oficina 1504
Santiago – RM

Los Navegantes 1963
Providencia – RM