The Informal and the Formal in Times of Crisis: Ethnographic Insights

Deadline: 27 February 2017
Open to: contributions and panels from anthropologists and scholars from other social sciences and the humanities, and encourages participation of research students
Venue: 7-9 July 2017, Corinth, Greece


This Conference aims at understanding the roles and meanings of informal practices in the context of the current political and economic crisis. In today’s global scenario, urban settings are a dominant form of associated life that encapsulate the socio-economic impact of increasingly significant international regulations, and selective management of capital, knowledge and people. Over the last three decades, the crisis, and subsequent discredit, of polarized ideologies which had characterized international politics since the Second World War has apparently determined the supremacy of economics over politics, an acceleration of economic globalization and a progressive erosion of democracy. In many cases, however, politics in the form of authoritarian decision-making and superimposed adverse policies have jeopardised the democratic covenant and the attendant terrains of representation, responsibility and accountability in the exercise of the power to rule. This process has often brought about the loss of important parts of sovereignty, as wealthier nations and powerful supranational interest groups have been seen to bully weaker nations, often also resulting in ever-growing fiscal demands and withdrawal of credit throughout the social scale, which has often been paralleled by national and local governance riding roughshod over the broader society.
At the micro-level, this combination of events has engendered harsh living conditions for many ordinary people. Major casualties have been individuals’ access to basic rights and governments’ responsibility and accountability in the management of power. Mass migration from poorer countries to richer or relatively richer countries, or to countries that are perceived to be richer, has contributed to make this problem worse, often turning traditional cultures of tolerance into toleration and, sometimes, violent rejection of non-autochthonous people.
Anthropologists have addressed in-depth the significance of the informal in people’s managing existence:
  • In the economic field they have addressed informal practices that develop beyond official employment and unemployment;
  • In the social and political fields they have studied in depth cronyism, clientelism, obscure awards of public contracts and various forms of collusion that turn citizens’ rights into privileges;
  • On the other hand, they have addressed informal exchanges of services, help, information, knowledge, and so on, that take place at the grassroots in response to ever-shrinking — sometimes factually inexistent — social welfare systems. Gradations of these grassroots informal activities draw on access to community resources beyond official allocation.


The Conference welcomes contributions and panels from anthropologists and scholars from other social sciences and the humanities, and encourages participation of research students.


Registration fee: EUR 60;
Postgraduate students: EUR 15.

How to apply?

Abstracts (300 words maximum) should be emailed by the 27th of February 2017 to Dr Giuliana B. Prato (, Dr Italo Pardo ( and Dr Manos Spyridakis ( Selected papers and panels will be announced by the 13th March 2017.

For more information please read the official call.

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