After informality: policy experts and the urban technopolitics of rehousing interventions
4S - EASST Conference
This paper explores the way experts’ knowledge and practices in planning and housing policy contribute to the technopolitics underlying the process of integration of poor and migrant populations in a democratic society. Drawing on preliminary work of the research project exPERts (http://expertsproject.org; start date April 2016) on the Portuguese Special Rehousing Program (Programa Especial de Realojamento, PER; 1993-present), we address the nexus between experts’ practices and policy paradigms; spatial planning and urban governance; and social policies in the field of poverty and marginalization. The PER (the largest public housing program implemented in democratic Portugal, enacted with the primary aim of eradicating slums in Lisbon and Porto) has had a considerable impact on urban and regional development in the country. However, many tension points emerged over the course of its implementation, such as the definition of the problem of informal settlements through sanitary language; the “civilizing mission” attached by the state to this policy tool; the use of unverified census data to regulate access to the program; the import of outdated paradigms of intervention favoring large-scale, modernist rehousing policies. This paper will address two crucial democratic and theoretical questions: (i) how are sets of policy expertise (including professional profiles, paradigms of intervention, techniques, practices) assembled to support the policy process?; (ii) to what extent does the role of experts (e.g. civil servants, advisers, researchers) extend and adapt beyond the boundaries of their professional training, and amount to a strategic use of professional knowledge and status in the policy process?
policy expertise; practice theory; public policy; informality; technopolitics