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Thursday, April 9 • 9:15am - 10:40am
TH9.15.01 Informal Urbanism in North America (PART 1, Proposal for a two-panel session)

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Informality in the Global North is receiving increasing attention. Urban informality has a long, forgotten history in these countries, including street vending and urban homesteading in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The resurgence of informal urbanism reflects the increasing precariousness of everyday life. Economic instability and social inequality fueled migration, day laboring, and sidewalk vending. Falling wages, economic restructuring, and rising living costs increased contingent work, homelessness, and informal housing practices. Municipal financial distress also encouraged the devolution of collective governance. In some circumstances, informality carries a countercultural cache as when taco trucks, pop-up beer gardens, and guerilla gardening become urban marketing tools. In all cases, informality has stimulated local re-regulation as cities respond to simultaneous demands to stop informal activity and to permit food trucks, vacation rentals and other informal practices. This organized, two-panel session explores the informal landscapes emerging in U.S., Canadian, and German cities. The first panel explains key characteristics of informal urbanism. What is it? Who does it? Where and how does informality thrive, and why? This panel explores these questions using in-depth studies of housing, food vending, and other informal practices in Chicago, New Orleans, Phoenix, Calgary, and Berlin. The second panel explores how informal practices interact with collective organizing and re-regulation. How do regulatory responses alter informal practices, and how does collective action surrounding informality shape new patterns of opportunity and inequality? Panel participants explore these questions using studies of urban policy reforms in New Orleans, Detroit, New York, Portland, and Chicago by policy makers who are attempting to make jurisdictional space for some informal practices within “mainstream” governance structures.

Self organization and the new regulatory landscapes of street food vending in Chicago and New Orleans
Renia Ehrenfeucht, University of New Orleans

Secondary housing suites in Canada: an underground remedy for affordability and social mobility?
Gregory Morrow, University of Calgary; Maren Sears, University of Calgary

Informal Settlements in the U.S. and Abroad
Anthony Barnum, Dickinson College

The Informalization of Poverty and Everyday Resistance
Nabil Kamel, Western Washington University


Anthony Barnum

Dickinson College

Renia Ehrenfeucht

University of New Orleans

Nabil Kamel

Western Washington University

Gregory Morrow

University of Calgary


Renia Ehrenfeucht

University of New Orleans

Thursday April 9, 2015 9:15am - 10:40am
Trinity (2nd floor)