Covering approximately 1800 acres of land in Karachi’s South district and with a population of around 1.6 million, the densely populated, multi-ethnic and largely working class area of Lyari in Karachi, has been the site of an on-going conflict between criminal gangs, political parties and state security forces for over a decade. Lyari has come to be identified as one of the city’s ‘no-go areas’ because of on-going conflicts in the area. However, residents tell a different story; they refer to Lyari as ‘Karachi ki maan’ (the mother of Karachi) because the area was one of Karachi’s original settlements and long predates Partition. As such, many of the area’s residents identify as members of ‘indigenous communities’, distinguishing themselves from migrants who arrived in Karachi after Partition.
In particular, this talk will focus on fear and insecurity as emotional practices that structure the spatial and social relations within the city. Using the narratives of young Baloch men who must negotiate the threat of violence at the hands of criminal gangs and state security forces within their area and rival political parties outside the area, the research presented will highlight how fear and insecurity must be understood as being contextually situated depending on one’s social and geographical position within the city. The experiences of these young men demonstrate how emotions, such as fear and insecurity, are both produced by and reproduce urban configurations of power.
Nida Kirmani is Assistant Professor of Sociology at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. Her previous research focused on Muslims in India and the interaction between women’s movements and Islam in India and Pakistan. She has published widely on issues related to gender, Islam, development and urban studies. Her book, Questioning ‘the Muslim Woman’: Identity and Insecurity in an Urban Indian Locality, was published in 2013 by Routledge. Her current research focuses on urban violence and insecurity in Karachi.