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date: 21 February 2018

Abstract and Keywords

Most urban residents around the world access water through a variety of so-called informal means. While “informal” water access is often equated with private water vendors operating outside of the state, this essay argues that informal practices and logics pervade the entire water system, cutting across perceived boundaries separating the formal and informal, state and private, and utility and nonutility. This essay reconceptualizes urban water informality through a postcolonial theoretical lens, arguing that “informal” water does not lie outside of state control and oversight, nor is it strictly separate from “formal” water. Rather, informal water is a product of historically specific forms of state practice that have shaped differentiated and fractured forms of space and infrastructure over time. Central to an understanding of informal water provision is the relationship between state practice, space, and infrastructure. The essay draws from the case of Bangalore, India, to critically rethink urban water informality.

Keywords: informal water, postcolonial lens, state practice, urban water, infrastructure, India

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