We live in an urban world. This historically-situated and geographically-uneven set of conditions profoundly affects the socio-political process because it radically transforms people’s relation to space, time, and affect, as well as changing the structures of social interaction and political-economic organization.
As they were developed to analyze the “formalized” nation-state throughout the 20th century, our Western-centred social-scientific heuristic devices are inadequate for understanding increasingly important forms of political engagement that do not fit our traditional categories. It might be more fruitful to develop an epistemology of urbanity : that is, a way of producing knowledge which mirrors people’s modes of relation to space, time, and affect in an urban world. This involves developing vernacular comparative practices and focusing on less visible (some would say “informal”) interactions. We further seek to incorporate informality in social scientific inquiry (not as an object of study, but as an analytical lens). This implies, for instance, working with fluid and dynamic categories, breaking down linear causalities, and using informal (rather than formalized) practices as pillars of our conceptual apparatus for understanding seemingly “formal” politics. Hence, practices of negotiation, aesthetical relations, and improvisation can prove very fruitful for understanding political action.