A last reinvestigation

by Melanie & Runa

During the scenario production at the Summer School for the market in Barranquilla, we kept asking ourselves: How to deal with „informality“ and the thousands of informal workers in Barranquilla’s downtown? And who actually are these people to whom we refer as “informals”?

In the course of an elective class at ETH we decided to further pursue this term.

We started working with the assumption that the term of informality was a precisely defined concept. Following the ILO report, the focus of our work was to find a way to formalize informal working relationships. But once we started reflecting about the informal economy and compared the situation of Barranquilla’s market to other markets worldwide, Mörtenbröck and Mooshammers’ theory (Informal Market Worlds, 2015), appeared to be much more plausible. The discussion about the informals in Barranquilla was guided by „the instrumental utilization of the concept of informality and the uses which different interest groups derive from it.“

Urban Informality – An informal Railway Market in Thailand       http://synccity.blogspot.ch

In this sense, our paper is oriented to the different perceptions of informality depending on each stakeholder. We decided to focus on four stakeholder groups: governmental institutions, formal workers, informal workers and the „public opinion“. After describing these four perspectives, the conclusion is our own reflection about the divergent, sometimes oppositional perception of informality. Also, we argue that this vague concept is sometimes standing in the way of finding new solutions for Barranquilla’s market.

The paper doesn’t claim scientific correctness since most of our (qualitative) data available is too little or fragmentary. Rather, it is a critical reflection of our two weeks in Barranquilla and what we experienced. Here, again, we’d like to mention that you all are invited to contribute with quotes or experiences from these two weeks we spent together!

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