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Keywords:

  • informality;
  • informal economies;
  • normalisation;
  • pathological spaces;
  • urban planning;
  • southern Africa

In this paper I consider ‘normalisation’ as a response to urban informal livelihoods in urban southern Africa. I demonstrate that urban planning systems have been mobilised to correct or eliminate ‘spatial pathologies’. Using illustrative cases from southern Africa, I argue that the authorities’ obsession with ‘normalising’ urban spaces they have designated as ‘pathologies’ is misplaced because it glaringly defies the reality on the ground. Interrogated in the paper is the reasoning behind, and effectiveness of, ‘corrective’ measures that exclude and marginalise informality through technicalisation, ‘expertisation’ and depoliticisation. I evaluate the basis, workings and deleterious outcomes of normalising technologies and question the relevance and efficacy of normalisation at a time when it is increasingly becoming clear that African urbanisation is – and will possibly continue to be – simultaneously driven and cushioned by informalisation.