Get access

The postcolonial city in South Asia



As a colonial invention, Karachi embodies the dynamics of postcolonial movement, diasporic populations, class inequality, new aspirations and abrasions, and a radical assortment of ethnicities and cultures. While Karachi remains a space where relations of power established during British colonial rule linger, it is also a site where new structures of power and a politics of identity have been negotiated and autochthonous claims contested. In the 1980s the rise of Muhajir militant nationalism inscribed within Karachi's landscape punctured dreams of a cosmopolitan city aligned with the visions of its postcolonial elite. Karachi's brutal ethnic riots and subsequent army operations brought to light the violent, anarchic side of the city. For many Karachi was never the same again. Engaging with history, anthropology, and postcolonial theory and geography, I reflect in this essay on the changing nature of the Pakistani metropolis in the context of its ethnic marking and various national projects. I consider how new formations are intertwined with Karachi's reconstruction, especially current missions that endeavour to transform the insurgent metropolis into a space symbolic of a progressive and secular Pakistan.