Enhancing informality as an opportunity for the reflexivity of social sciences

Abstract : On the basis of scientific literature and fieldwork related with urban environmental risk, housing issues and informal trade in Latin-American cities (mainly Caracas, but also México, Buenos Aires and São Paolo), informality appears to be a double-edge notion. It allows building critical knowledge on social stratification and power relations, as well as it opens the door for reflexivity and fundamental questioning of epistemic structures that frame social sciences and its practices. As for me, the double-edge characteristic of informality can shape two kinds of thinking: - An "outward thinking" of social sciences. Reflexivity as it allows discriminating social reality and identifying power relations in a modernist world of classification, benchmarking and dualism. Whatever is considered as informal can be seen as a process of social ordering. - An "inward thinking" of social sciences. Reflexivity as it allows questioning the role and status of social sciences in a modernist world in transformation. It allows also questioning the accuracy of "national-centered" social sciences in accounting for current social reality and dynamics. The normative conception of informality is useless. What can be said about new forms of social interactions and dynamics? How can social sciences address such shift (in methodological, epistemological, thematic terms)? Such twofold perspective on informality should be articulated around the transformation of modernity - which can be seen through the end of the Westphalian State, the raising of criticism in knowledge, the crisis of meta-narratives or even through the ability (for individuals or to build knowledge) to be reflexive. I will try to discuss the opportunity of viewing informality in a twofold perspective, such as social reality can be accounted for, and simultaneously, such as epistemological questions can be addressed in our current world of transforming Modernity.
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Submitted on : Friday, January 20, 2012 - 12:30:08 PM
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Julien Rebotier. Enhancing informality as an opportunity for the reflexivity of social sciences. Reflecting on the heuristic potential of informality: A South-North dialogue, Jan 2012, LYON, France. ⟨halshs-00661668⟩

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