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Title: Understanding urban informality : everyday life in informal urban settlements in Pakistan
Author: Bari, Arezu Imran
Awarding Body: Newcastle University
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2016
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Rapid urbanisation and severe housing shortages help explain why informal settlements of self-built housing are widespread in Pakistan today. Failure to ensure an adequate supply of affordable housing has led to the steady encroachment of state-owned and private vacant land for informal dwelling. Current estimates are that 67% of the urban population of Pakistan lives in unrecognised settlements (UN-Habitat, 2013). Urban informality is arguably under researched within the South Asian context, particularly Pakistan. This study considers how everyday life unfolds through various forms of extra-legal, social and discursive regulations in this context of pervasive informality. This exploration is developed for the particular case of the Siddiquia Mill Colony, Faisalabad City. A central premise is that we need to develop new theoretical analytic tools that reflect current global urban trends in order to shift the perception of informality from one of deviance and disorganisation to one of alternative functionality and complementarity. The vast majority of new housing and urban economic opportunities around the world occur in informal sectors and unregulated settings. Contrary to conventional understanding, particularly in relation to South Asian informality, the research findings highlight that informal housing and irregular settlements function as enduring modes of urban development, inadequately portrayed as symptoms of economic backwardness. The study provides concrete examples of how informality is co-produced with formal urban development, often filling the institutional, structural and administrative gaps that state-led planning practices leave behind. The empirical research draws on a mix of ethnographic data from a detailed survey of household housing characteristics, in-depth interviews and immersive observations, in a two-tier research design. The findings reinforce the notion that informality is ordinary rather than deviant. Inhabitants exhibit a sense of attachment, a recognition of alternative property rights and a perceived sense of entitlement in relation to their properties. It is noted that, while a desire to ‘own’ their property could be perceived as falling in line with neo-liberal ideals, the drivers and objectives underpinning ‘ownership’ in this context are far removed from the desire, or need, to be part of a capitalistic, neo-liberal, propertied citizenship. Rather, these aspirations are based on ideas of security and perpetuity. This is evident through a close reading of well-defined but complex webs of horizontal and vertical social relations. Social relations internally differentiate the inhabitants of Siddiquia Mill, highlighting the persistence of unequal power relations. The insights gained from this case study contribute deeper understanding in geography and planning debates by demonstrating the multiple ways that urban informality functions simultaneously as a social field of competition and cooperation. This work makes two significant contributions to scholarship. First, it explores the previously neglected context of informality in urban Pakistan, which is quite different from informality in other, more-well documented countries of South Asia. Second, it argues in favour of informality as a counter to neo-liberalist ideology.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available