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Keep It Informal: Resisting Power in the Shadows of Systems with Alena Ledeneva
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Keep It Informal: Resisting Power in the Shadows of Systems: Book launch and discussion with Alena Ledeneva, UCL 

A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Informal Problem-Solving in Human Life, Volume 3 of The Global Encyclopaedia of Informality, UCL Press Fringe Series, 2024.

When we speak of "informality", we cannot simply define it as the opposite of "formal", "official", or "sanctioned." Rather, informality represents a space of potential where innovation, newness, and strategic survival can emerge, particularly in oppressive regimes. 

Can informality be seen as resistance to power and potential for institutional change? Is staying hidden a productive way to accumulate critical resources to transform regimes? Join Professor Alena Ledeneva for a discussion of the “shades of grey” around the globe. 

The Global Encyclopaedia of Informality offers a journey into the world’s open secrets, unwritten rules and hidden practices. Its third volume focuses on issues of emotional ambivalence and the pressures of the digital age on humanity. The informal practices presented in this volume demonstrate the urgency of alleviating tensions between continuity and all-too-rapid change and the need to tackle the central problem of modern societies – uncertainty. We will take you on a ‘biographical’ journey through elusive, taken-for-granted or banal ways of getting things done from over 70 countries and world regions. The book challenges the assumption that informality is associated exclusively with poverty, underdevelopment, the Global South, oppressive regimes or the former socialist countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia. It also maps the patterns of informality around the globe, identifies specific informal practices in a context-sensitive way, and documents their ambivalent impact on people engaged in problem-solving, societies where these problems arise, and humanity overall.

Following the presentation of the new volume, we will launch and brainstorm a new project to be developed in collaboration with Pushkin House that would focus on informality in artistic practice. The event will be moderated by Denis Maksimov, our curator of exhibitions and public programming. 

Alena V. Ledeneva

Alena V. Ledeneva  is Professor of Politics and Society at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, University College London, UK. She studied Economics at the Novosibirsk State University (1986) and Social and Political Theory at the University of Cambridge (Newnham College, M.Phil.1992; Ph.D.1996). She’s been a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at New Hall College at Cambridge in 1996–1999; a Senior Fellow at the Davis Center, Harvard University (2005); a Simon Professor at the University of Manchester (2006), a Visiting Professor at Sciences Po, Paris (2010). She authored a number of books including How Russia Really Works (Cornell University Press, 2006) and Russia’s Economy of Favours (Cambridge University Press, 1998) and numerous articles. Her expertise is on Russia and global affairs, global governance and corruption; informal economy; economic crime; informal practices in corporate governance; role of networks and patron-client relationships. Her new book is Can Russia Modernise? Sistema, Power Networks and Informal Governance (Cambridge University Press, 2013)


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