Just a few days ago, on 15th of January 2019, marshrutka-project researchers Wladimir Sgibnev and Lela Rekhviashvili published a paper on “Theorising informality and social embeddedness for the study of informal transport. Lessons from the marshrutka mobility phenomenon” at the Journal of Transport Geography.
This time the focus lies more on theory, which makes it an very interesting read.
This paper builds upon recent post-structuralist writings on informal economic practices, using most importantly a Polanyian institutionalist framework, to discuss formal/informal and market/non-market practices in the transport sector. The article proposes a critical reading of the literary canon of informal transport, which largely assumes a naturalness and omnipresence of markets. We illustrate how reductionist definitions of informal transport marginalise analytically important empirical detail, and furthermore, lead to misleading theoretical conclusions. In contrast, we analytically de-couple informality and markets, showing that formal and informal economic practices can be embedded in diverse social-cultural institutions. Such a theoretical framework allows for consistent evaluation and empirical examination of transport options, as substantiated by evidence from the marshrutka mobility phenomenon in Bishkek and Tbilisi. We observe marketisation, dis- or re-embedding, formalisation and informalisation as dynamic, inter-dependent and conflictual processes. On these grounds, the article argues for a critical re-appraisal of other forms of informal transport, old and emerging, both in the Global South and the Global North.
Be sure to have a look!