Urban Informality as a Site of Critical Analysis

Nicola Banks, Diana Mitlin, Melanie Lombard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Across the Global South, the realities of urban informality are changing, with
implications for how we understand this phenomenon across economic, spatial and political domains. Recent accounts have attempted to recognise the diversity of informality across contexts and dimensions, as well as its everyday lived realities. Reviewing key debates in the sector, and drawing upon the new empirical studies in the papers presented here, we argue for a shift away from seeing urban informality narrowly as a setting, sector or outcome. We suggest that reconsidering informality as a site of critical analysis offers a new perspective that draws on and extends political economy approaches, and helps us to understand processes of stratification and disadvantage. We seek to highlight the significance of the informal-formal continuum at the same time as challenging this dichotomy, and to explore emerging theoretical and empirical developments, including changing attitudes to informality; the increasing salience of agency; and informality as strategy both for elite and subaltern groups.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-238
JournalJournal of Development Studies
Issue number2
Early online date11 Mar 2019
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2019

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Global Development Institute
  • Manchester Urban Institute


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