The Ordinary City and the Extraordinary City

Our recent paper titled 'The Ordinary City and the Extraordinary City: The challenges of planning for the Everyday' has just been accepted as part of the Azim Premji University's working paper series. You can read the FULL PAPER here.

Extraordinary City PLAN: In the month of Ramzan at the Taj Hotel junction in Shivajinagar

Sharing the abstract below:

Recent work on informal urbanism argues that informality is a strong force in determining and shaping how cities in the global south grow, and hence needs to be a part of emergent urban theory. This paper attempts to build upon this work through undertaking an empirical investigation into how people informally shape the city through their everyday and periodic activities in public spaces. Specifically, the research uses spatial ethnography to examine urban informality as an outcome of spatial and economic changes in a market precinct in Bangalore.

The paper finds that everyday practices within certain urban spaces have a temporal dimension. The ordinary city encapsulates how people use urban spaces on an everyday basis and the extraordinary city reflects how urban spaces are transformed during a periodic, religious and cultural festival. The paper attempts to derive relational measures of locational choice, tactics of informal vendors, and the economics of the space through an unpacking of the two situations. It finds that there is a change in the processes of interaction between the informal and formal non-state actors as well as in the tolerance of the state during these different situations for the same locations in the neighbourhood. It draws upon the construct of the ‘common denominator’ and applies it to the everyday practices within these situations to develop an ordinary-extraordinary framework.

The paper makes two key contributions, one, to show how developing this theoretical framework might add to our understanding of informal urbanism and two, to propose that it may be useful to have intermediate levels of planning that incorporate the conditions of the ordinary city as well as the extraordinary city.

Keywords: informal urbanism, urban informality, spatial ethnography, everyday practices, public spaces