Informal housing: Plurality in the city

Sidoli del Ceno, Julian (2016). Informal housing: Plurality in the city. In: Davidson, Nestor and Mistry, Nisha eds. Law Between Buildings: Emergent Global Perspectives in Urban Law. London: Routledge.



This chapter sits in a volume of work on urban law and aims to set out some preliminary thoughts in this field. It answers the question “Is there such a thing as ‘urban law’?” with a resounding “Yes!” It aims to present a paradigm of the urban as one of change and complexity. This paradigm contrasts with that of the rural, which represents continuity and stability. It then presents some examples of informal “law” drawn from a variety of empirical work. These examples center on housing and dispute resolution. Housing is taken to be perhaps the most urgent area where the specifically urban nature of conflict is apparent. Dispute resolution is what matters most in reality to those affected by conflict. The chapter will briefly consider whether the examples raised are “law” or something else, and deduce that what is important is not the label but capturing the reality of normativity “on the ground.” The chapter will conclude by arguing that these examples of informal housing, whether classified as law or something else, are therefore worthy subjects of study for lawyers and not just anthropologists and sociologists. The normative practices of certain, often marginalized, groups impact on society and raise questions about the efficacy and role of the courts and legislation.

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