International Development Planning Review

Governing urban informality: re-working spaces and subjects in Kampala, Uganda

International Development Planning Review (2019), 41, (1), 63–84.

Abstract

This article addresses evolving ways of governing urban informality that increasingly draw upon the management of space. Drawing inspiration from governmentality studies, the article examines contemporary governmental strategies of spatial enclosure and expulsion deployed upon street vendors in Kampala, in the context of an ambitious urban transformation agenda and a recentralisation of political authority. The article uncovers the complex configuration of actors involved in the realisation and contestation of such spatial strategies, the messy political interactions and the multiple lines of tension they generate, thus questioning simplistic conceptual oppositions and coherent categories. The contradictory agency of the vendors comes to light, encompassing both resistance and active participation in their own enclosure. The state, far from operating as a cohesive repressive force, emerges as deeply divided around the fate of street vendors, suggesting that ways of governing informality play a central role in struggles for power among state actors. The article also explores the outcomes of dominant spatial strategies of governance in Kampala, both in terms of the effects on the targeted population and of the limits of these strategies for the intended transformation of the city.

Governing urban informality: re-working spaces and subjects in Kampala, Uganda

Abstract

This article addresses evolving ways of governing urban informality that increasingly draw upon the management of space. Drawing inspiration from governmentality studies, the article examines contemporary governmental strategies of spatial enclosure and expulsion deployed upon street vendors in Kampala, in the context of an ambitious urban transformation agenda and a recentralisation of political authority. The article uncovers the complex configuration of actors involved in the realisation and contestation of such spatial strategies, the messy political interactions and the multiple lines of tension they generate, thus questioning simplistic conceptual oppositions and coherent categories. The contradictory agency of the vendors comes to light, encompassing both resistance and active participation in their own enclosure. The state, far from operating as a cohesive repressive force, emerges as deeply divided around the fate of street vendors, suggesting that ways of governing informality play a central role in struggles for power among state actors. The article also explores the outcomes of dominant spatial strategies of governance in Kampala, both in terms of the effects on the targeted population and of the limits of these strategies for the intended transformation of the city.

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Foucault, M. (2003) Society must be defended: lectures at the Collége De France 1975–76, New York, Picador. Society must be defended: lectures at the Collége De France 1975–76 Google Scholar

Foucault, M. (2007) Security, territory, population: lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–78, (ed.) M. Senellart, London, Palgrave Macmillan. Security, territory, population: lectures at the Collège de France, 1977–78 Google Scholar

Goodfellow, T. (2013) ‘The institutionalisation of “noise” and “silence” in urban politics: riots and compliance in Uganda and Rwanda’, Oxford Development Studies, 41(4), 436–54. The institutionalisation of “noise” and “silence” in urban politics: riots and compliance in Uganda and Rwanda Oxford Development Studies 41 436 54 Google Scholar

Goodfellow, T. and Titeca, K. (2012) ‘Presidential intervention and the changing “politics of survival” in Kampala’s informal economy’, Cities, 29(4), 264–70. Presidential intervention and the changing “politics of survival” in Kampala’s informal economy Cities 29 264 70 Google Scholar

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Huxley, M. (2008) ‘Space and government: governmentality and geography’, Geography Compass, 2(5), 1635–58. Space and government: governmentality and geography Geography Compass 2 1635 58 Google Scholar

Jeffrey, C. (2010) Timepass: youth, class and the politics of waiting in India, Stanford, Stanford University Press. Timepass: youth, class and the politics of waiting in India Google Scholar

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Author details

Lindell, Ilda

Ampaire, Christine

Byerley, Andrew