Matias and Rahul push it one step further on Airoots (one of my favourite blogs), questioning the informal-formal conceptual binary when describing and thinking about spaces such as Dharavi.
"We feel that the word ‘informal’ has now become another catchword that can be affixed to all kinds of terms to give them a superficial edge: informal settlements, informal networks, informal cities, informal design. The term has not been adequately thought through and glosses over many dimensions of lived reality.

If we want to describe the cities of today, especially the parts that fall out of the grid or creep through it, we need to invent new terms that express not so much their form but rather the way they evolve. That is why we would rather describe MG Road as being constantly ‘in-formation’ rather than informal.

Saying that a habitat is ‘in-formation’ doesn’t necessarily mean that it is incomplete. Instead, the term echoes Kevin Lynch’s description of cities as “evolving learning ecologies” (1981 p.115) and seeks to capture the capacity of certain urban spaces to evolve continuously and adapt to the context. The hyphen between ‘in and ‘formation’ is there to emphasize the dynamic production of urban forms and its perpetual incremental improvement and conservation."
This is something I have been thinking about too of late. How do we think about the non "rational" / "official" city (that "grid of discipline"), without resorting to a binary opposition and yet account for difference? One way is to not think of this other city as a "lack" or somewhere prior on an imagined time-line. So, non-capitalist not pre-capitalist economies. Or a-modern medicine not "traditional" medicine. And, further, the purity of such categories is always questionable. Conceptual and everyday borders are constantly transgressed. Which is why I like Airoots' "in-formation" habitats. It doesn't foreclose different directions and possibilities.

But, I do sometimes wonder if we are beginning to privilege the economic (Dharavi is always celebrated for being economically vibrant) over the cultural and social. I wonder what the implications of that may be for cultural spaces that are not so economically/commercially as vibrant?

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