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Jordana Ramalho

Tue, Oct 17, 2023    1:15pm

Informality in the Global City: Contested Landscapes & Resilience-Building in Metro Cebu, The Philippines

A lecture by Jordana Ramalho, Associate Professor at the University College London, organized as part of the Lectures in Planning Series (LiPS) at Columbia GSAPP.

It is widely accepted that many planning interventions have negative effects on poorer and marginalized groups whose dwellings and livelihoods are often targeted by modernization programs that seek to eradicate informality and free up land for new forms of development. Yet we know that cities would not function effectively without the urban poor, whose labor, daily transactions and people-to-people interactions are fundamental to the generative qualities of urban economies. We also know that the viability of a city to provide for its population and the ability of ‘the informal’ to adapt to what is required for survival and development are deeply classed and gendered yet remains largely unacknowledged.

Critiques of planning interventions that seek the modernization or formalization of ‘the informal’, tend to miss these intersectional dimensions because they approach these issues and dynamics in dichotomous terms and/or worry about the end outcomes rather than focusing on the actual processes and power relations that underpin why they occur. Because these entanglements are relational and constantly being negotiated, it is important that planners understand what happens as they transition from one state to another. In the Philippines, calls for creating ‘global’, ‘sustainable’ and ‘resilient’ cities pose a growing threat to informal spaces and economies, and the people that rely on them. Drawing on 10 years of ethnographic and qualitative research, in this lecture, I reflect on the ways in which these urban imaginaries and the governance regimes they produce are reconfiguring the city, and the (un)intended gendered and socio-political impacts and displacements that emerge.

Jordana Ramalho is an Associate Professor in Development Planning for Diversity, and the Co-Director of the MSc Urban Development Planning (UDP) Programme at the Bartlett Development Planning Unit (DPU), University College London.

Spanning the fields of urban geography, development studies and feminist urban political ecology, her research explores the socio-spatial trajectories of urban development in the Philippines with a particular focus on disaster risk governance, resilience-building, urban regeneration and the intersectional dynamics of dispossession, displacement and collective action that accompany them. Jordana also has 15+ years of professional experience of working with NGOs in the UK, Canada, East Africa, Latin America and the Philippines to support their operational and strategic interventions relating to diversity and social inclusion, gender mainstreaming, HIV/AIDS, housing and homelessness, young offending and food security. Much of this work has focused on building institutional capacities to work with marginalized groups and to embed intersectionally attentive policies and approaches into their development practice.

Organized by the Urban Planning Program at Columbia GSAPP.