Languages of Informality


Dr Nicolette Makovicky has been awarded a CEELBAS network grant of £2500 for two, one-day, interdisciplinary workshops. These workshops, which will be co-organised with David Henig (University of Kent), will bring together scholars from CEELBAS institutions, policy makers and representatives of third sector organizations to the debate linguistic, literary, and analytical aspects of informal economic practices across the contemporary post socialist Eurasia. These practices include networking, favouritism, clientelism, bribery, and corruption.

The first workshop ‘Vocabularies of Informality’, will invite scholars to consider comparatively the vocabulary, etymology, and semantics of localized terms for informal economic behaviour (ie. blat,znajomosci, štela, şpaga), as well as their appearance and role in regional literary and cultural traditions. Both of these aspects have been largely ignored by scholars until now.

The second workshop ‘Grammars of Informality’, will focus on  the problem of the development, compatibility, and comparability of the analytical language adopted by scholars studying informal economic behaviour across disciplines (History, Anthropology, Sociology, Socio-Legal Studies, and Economics). A re-examination of the analytical terms for informal economic behaviour is especially pertinent, as much of the terminology is highly normative, and tied to preconceptions about the nature of economy activity, civil society, and democratization in post-socialist Eurasia.

The Languages of Informality project comprises of an active research network, a research blog and mailing list, and an online dictionary designed to generate a database of vernacular words, phrases, and turn of speech about informal activites from across the region. To add to the online dictionary, please go to:

If you are interested in joining the network and/or participating in the workshops, please do not hesitate to email us at and/or

Working papers, project reports, and debates from these workshops will be made publicly available on this website.