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Durham University

Department of Geography

Departmental Research Projects

Publication details

McFarlane, C. & Silver, J. Navigating the city: dialectics of everyday urbanism. Transactions of the Institute for British Geographers. 2017;42:458-471.

Author(s) from Durham


How might we conceptualise and research everyday urbanism? By examining the making of everyday life in a low-income neighbourhood in Uganda, we argue that a dialectics of everyday urbanism is a useful approach for understanding urban poverty. This dialectical approach examines how marginalised urban dwellers navigate the city in the relative absence of formal infrastructure systems, service provision and state welfare, and in turn exceed those limitations through forging connections, capacities and opportunities. We reveal the ‘social infrastructures’ that people put together to sustain life, as well as the limits of and placed on these infrastructures, from the legacies of structural adjustment to ongoing forms of demolition and disinvestment. We identify a set of practices that operate alongside social infrastructure – ‘coordination’, ‘consolidation’ and ‘speculation’ – important in the composition of everyday urban life. In doing so, we reflect on how we might research the dialectics of everyday urbanism, and here a ‘follow-along participant observation’ (FAPO) methodology has significant potential. Our arguments emerge from research with residents in Kampala, but open out questions for how we conceive and research everyday life and urban infrastructure more generally.

Department of Geography