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The Persistence of Informal Economic Practices in Post-Socialist Societies (edited collection)‏


The Persistence of Informal Economic Practices in Post-Socialist Societies
In preparation for the Ashgate series in Urban Anthropology
Editors: Jeremy Morris (university of Birmingham) and Abel Polese (University of Edinburgh)

This book is conceived as an exploration of the mechanisms regulating, in different contexts and modalities, the development and functioning of informal practices. In order to do this we invite chapters concentrating on a case study of a particular category of people (entrepreneurs, politicians, students, civil servants, small traders, taxi drivers), who are regularly engaging with informal transactions. Details of how chapters should be constructed are below.

Rationale of the book
Since Hart's conceptualisation of informal economies in 1973 scholars from various disciplines have investigated the nature of informal transactions and practices. Some have focused on illegality, some have treated them as socially embedded, others as resistance. What many seemed to agree upon, however, was the transitory/transitional nature of the informal sector, which would disappear once a country, or a region, reached a sufficient level of economic development.

The starting position of this book is to challenge the view that informality under post-socialism should be considered transitional � a position which reflects a long line of `embedding' literature on industrial relations and economic anthropology from Harding (1989) to Gibson-Graham (2003). This is prompted by the persistent nature of informal transactions of post-socialist countries, many of which are deemed to have reached a high level of marketised economic development (and have been accepted into the EU on this basis) but whose citizens still on rely informal practices to a significant degree in everyday life even in their dealings with the state's representatives, such as teachers, for example.

Drawing on ethnographic accounts of very different parts of a society, and in different former socialist countries, the chapters of this book will show that no one is excluded from informal practices, which are used regardless of the economic status of a citizen or of the country (since the most developed countries also use them systematically). In turn this allows the editors to address the more fundamental questions of whether persistent informalisation heralds the emergence of a more `embedded' economy or whether such practices are merely the micro-level evidence of a retrenchment of marketised social relations in post-socialist societies.

Call for chapters
We are looking for empirically-rich accounts that reflect the current state of theoretical debate. We do not expect authors to engage explicitly with theory in their chapter unless there is a compelling reason to do so, given that a theoretically-driven overview will be provided in the introduction.

Chapters should present an in-depth case study on a specific category and how they engage in informal practices and should broadly present an ethnographic account composed of at least two parts:

Part I: A justification of the choice of case of the individual/category engaging with informal transactions (i.e. students, doctors, civil servants, nurses, miners etc...). This does not have to refer to the macro-context but may do so, for instance:

How many people are in the same category (i.e. in country X there are Y students; other statistics such as age groups or anything else that you want the reader to know to better understand the piece � it may be more appropriate to discuss the social or cultural-historical significance of the category).

What is the economic relevance of the category (i.e. the amount of money paid by students is... that is X/Y of the GDP or any other figures you want the reader to be aware of)

Methodology of the case study (including period, city or country, what methods you have used)

Part II: Case study

This will be the "story" of an individual from the category you want to describe (a student, an entrepreneur, a politician, etc.), the way this person (or composite) survives/increases its social, economic or human capital, the way they use networks, social connections, legal and illegal practices that they use on a regular or sporadic basis, what may be their motivations to do so and how are those practices perceived by this person entourage.

The "story" can be either drawn totally from interviews with one informant, whom you deem representative for their category; or, alternatively, could be constructed from data you have from many informants but that you amalgamate into the story of one individual

If you have any questions or want to discuss the chapter further please contact
Abel apolese@ed.ac.uk or
Jeremy j.b.morris@bham.ac.uk