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Session Overview
6-HP125: The Makeshift City
Wednesday, 07/July/2021:
12:30pm - 1:45pm

Session Chair: Dr. Naomi van Stapele, ISS, Netherlands, The
Session Chair: Dr. Joop de Wit, International Institute of Social Studies ISS, Netherlands, The

Session Abstract

This panel engages with urban development, governance and politics to explore multiple crises affecting cities. The concept ‘the makeshift city’ is key, especially how this connects to solidarity initiatives by and among citizens. This notion not only captures the haphazard and unplanned ways many cities develop but also brings in view emerging opportunities for urban inclusivity, peace building and social justice. This panel interrogates arrangements of housing, services and security in which citizens initiate collaborations with government, corporate actors and/or CSOs with the aim to encourage multi-stakeholder collaborations that build from rather than operate against local connections, knowledges and practices.

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“Create Jobs don’t just look for Employment’’: Community-Led Research & Action and Youth (un)Employment in an Informal Settlement in Nairobi, Kenya

Edwin Rwigi

BIEA, Kenya

Dominant discourses around youth unemployment in public policy and development programming in Kenya have remained unchanged for the better part of the last three decades. This is in spite of the growing emphasis on participatory approaches in the design and/or implementation of interventions. Often heard reasons for paying mere lip service to participatory approaches hold that these complicate and draw out policy-making beyond tight deadlines and make it impossible for policy makers to meet their targets. That multiple voices from the people whose lives are at stake in planned interventions need to be involved is well argued. How this can or should take place is another matter. This paper explores the relevance of Community Led Research & Action (CLRA) in the ‘makeshift city’ as an emerging research methodology within the tradition of decoloniality and engaged scholarship. CLRA is a horizontal and dialogic method in collaborative and community driven research processes. CLRA draws from the strength of approaches in ethnography and post-structuralist and literary studies to examine lived experiences, reflect on meaning and positions and to co-create new knowledge.

The paper first considers a CLRA project in the informal settlement of Mathare in Nairobi as a site of collaboration for knowledge production with and for the makeshift city. The paper then deconstructs the conceptual underpinning of policy discourses on (un)employment and livelihood in the makeshift city. These discourses, the paper argues, like other dominant discourses in developmentalism, are narrativized worldviews, often in shorthand. The narratives truncate or extend certain elements of ‘reality’ – eliminating uncertainty and complexity – so as to tell a story consistent with the assumptions of the underpinning narrative. The findings of this paper show how CLRA as a tool and method can help highlight ‘blind spots’ and fill gaps in policy narratives as demonstrated in the case of youth (un)employment interventions in Kenya through the lived experiences of youths living in Mathare.

Creating Opportunity Out Of Scarcity? The Resilience Of Informal Settlements In Nairobi

Jan Fransen1, Dianne Wakonyo2, Andre Leliveld3, Elsie Onsongo2, Saskia Ruijsink4, Peter Rijntjes5

1Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Netherlands/ / LDE Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa; 2LDE Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa, Hub Kenya; 3African Studies Centre Leiden/ LDE Centre for Frugal Innovation in Africa; 4Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies, Erasmus University Rotterdam; 5What design Can Do

This study explores if and how frugal innovations explain differences in the resilience of two informal settlements in Nairobi during Covid-19. We explore these from a complex system perspective, whereby coping mechanisms of multiple actors are expected to incrementally improve resilience. The findings are based on 80 interviews in two of Nairobi’s informal settlements: Mathare and Korogocho. In our research, the coping mechanisms of households offer reactive, temporary, low-cost, makeshift solutions, which facilitate short-term survival but hardly improve resilience in the longer run. Many frugal innovations are opportunistic and sometimes even criminal. The study however also finds that resilience in informal settlements requires a deep understanding of makeshift processes and frugal innovations, which is lacking in resilience literature. In the case studies, external actors, such as governments, donor agencies and NGO’s, bring in frugal innovations such as micro credit which appear to improve resilience. This indicates that informal settlements do not have to be the breeding grounds of frugal innovations but should have the absorptive capacity to recognize, assimilate, adjust and apply frugal innovations developed elsewhere.

Surviving in the Makeshift City: Informality and Access to Social Protection Services in Chennai

Joop de Wit

International Institute of Social Studies ISS, Netherlands, The

Based on long term empirical research, this paper starts from the assumption that the Indian mega city of Chennai can be considered a ‘makeshift city’. It qualifies in terms of the haphazard, unplanned and elite driven ways in which it seems to develop, as well as having plenty poor people precariously coping with livelihood challenges in numerous slums and recently created massive relocation areas at the city’s fringe. The capital city of Tamil Nadu state has an estimated population of around 10 million today (with 800.000 people still in city slums) it is expected to have around 13 million by 2030. This draft paper presents and reflects on recent data collected amongst the urban poor and local experts on trends of poverty, informality and inequality. The key question is whether and if so how poor people obtain access to what is termed ‘social protection policy’: support in urgent areas such as health, education, housing, sanitation and urban safety. One assumption addressed is that – as elsewhere in Indian cities – local or street level mediators supported by local councilors play key roles in linking the poor to institutions important to them such as the City Corporation, hospitals, schools and the police. The answer seems different for the urban poor still living in the city and those large numbers relocated to a far flung location – which has been characterized as a low caste/ working class ‘ghetto’ by some. By and large the city poor do enjoy what seems a relatively easy access to uniform social protection services, while often living close to employment opportunities. In contrast, and illustrating a deliberately created socio-economic divide, social protection services in the poorly located and far too massive relocation sites are and remain problematic. The paper asks the question as to the role of slum/area based mediators; the incidence of (political) clientelism/ patronage relations; and the extent to which access is mediated by bribes to mediators, to office based touts, or in exchange for the promise to vote for the party where support is sought. The roles and activities of the Chennai municipal councilors is given special attention here. As per Indian municipal law, elections for such councilors where obligatory in 2012, but the Tamil Nadu Government – faced by a deep political crises after the demise in 2016 of the all-powerful Chief Minister Jayalalithaa - managed to postpone these time and again. They are now scheduled for early 2020. How can it be that in day-to-day practice (non-elected) city councilors still act as much sought after mediators and protectors, lacking any constitutional mandate? The paper especially targets the political side of such mediation in Chennai, while probing local ward councilors in terms of political patronage in the context of informality and corruption in urban governance, as well as implications for inequality.


Reading Urban Informality in Tehran Metropolitan Area: Makeshift, Experimental, and Precarious qualities

Toktam Ashnaiy

Iran University of Science and Technology, Iran, Tehran

The “urbanization of capital” and the “commodification of land” in the Tehran Metropolitan Area in Iran is one of the reasons for increasing housing prices within Tehran Metropolis. As a result, low-income dwellers and new migrants have been driven out of Tehran to peripheral territories, where informal settlements have been grown at the same time. A thematic content analysis method is used to criticize the most valid and scientific published documents related to the concept of “informality” in Iran. Based on its results, informality has been conceived as a binary formal-informal dichotomy. Although they are remarked by deprivation and the absence of the basic necessities, they can also enable a “rare degree of political and cultural autonomy” regarding the absence of the traditional modes of governance. So, these empirical gaps in doing the informal settlement studies on Tehran’s periphery have made a critical analysis of the current dichotomy and an attempt to address a potential alternative approach to urban informality. In this regard, I develop a reading of informality as an expression of deep democracy (Appadurai,2002), insurgent planning (Miraftab,2009), informality as a way of life (Allsayad,2004), as a mode of the production of space (Roy, 2005), and as a makeshift urbanism (Vasudevan, 2015). The paper is built upon analyzing the residents of informal settlements as inventive navigators who explore the changing physical, spatial, and socio-political environment, avoiding threats and looking for opportunities, grounded in their everyday practices. It also points to the possibilities- complex, makeshift, and experimental- for extending, improving, and sustaining life in settings of pervasive informality. The process of dwelling-through-construction using by the “informals” is a product of countless everyday acts of adjustment and assembly, negotiation, and improvisation. Accordingly, this paper conceptualizes informal space as a flexible lived space which empowers the poor. A recognition of the makeshift character of urban informality has the potential to bridge a radical political economy tradition with more recent post-structural approaches to city life. The concept ‘the makeshift’ is vital, especially how this connects to solidarity initiatives by and among residents of informal settlements. It is crucial at recognizing the lived materialities of the residents as emergent forms of dwelling, sociality, and cooperation. This depends quite understandably on a precarious process of accretion and assembly where materials and infrastructures are incrementally added and continuously altered and reworked in order to satisfy new needs and possibilities. The research design of the paper is conducted by qualitative research that is an approach to explore and comprehend meaning acquired by people and groups on social issues. Applying such research design produces an opportunity to deepen the recognition of a local setting in Tehran in order to rethink the planning approaches and discourses of informality.

Renting in the makeshift city: Governance, politics and technologies of backyard rental housing in Cape Town, South Africa

Andreas Scheba1, Louis Rice2, Adam Harris3

1Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa; 2University of the West of England, U.K.; 3University College London, U.K.

Renting is an important yet often forgotten reality of the 'makeshift city'. Millions of poor households rely on cheap rental accommodation in informal settlements, townships or inner-city buildings to get a foothold in the city. Informal rental accommodation is growing rapidly as a popular alternative to squatting on vacant land, which is becoming ever more scarce and peripheral. However, governments, non-governmental organisations and private sector have generally neglected the informal rental sector, focussing instead on expanding formal homeownership or informal settlements upgrading. This paper highlights the significance of informal rental housing to the urban poor and wider questions of inclusive urban development. Drawing on empirical research on informal backyard rental housing in the City of Cape Town, South Africa, including focus group discussions, interviews and site visits in three poor communities, the paper discusses the dynamic nature, major challenges and potential opportunities of this sector for inclusive urbanisation. Using an interdisciplinary approach to studying the makeshift city, the paper examines the technical, political-economic and social dimensions of 'backyarding' in three different neighbourhoods. In addition to discussing the conditions, strategies and experiences of individual backyarders on different plots, the research compares collective organising strategies of backyarder communities to explore their potential for creating positive change. Community experiences of working with, against and independent of the state will be compared with each other to understand their impact on realising the right to adequate housing. The role of governance, local politics and technology in shaping individual and community experiences of backyarding will be critically discussed. The paper argues that informal rental housing is undergoing important transformations and is having significant impacts on infrastructure, services and social relations in the makeshift city. Furthermore, its growth and dynamism have attracted the interest of both formal and informal private sector organisations that are beginning to provide financing and technical suppot to a growing class of property entrepreneurs in South Africa's township areas. This growing commercialisation of backyarding has important ramifications for social solidarity, peace and social justice in the city, which deserve more scholarly and policy attention in future.

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