University of Cambridge > > Infrastructural Geographies - Department of Geography > ‘We are tax-paying citizens, we deserve attention’: Karachi’s upper-middle class and the politics of governance

‘We are tax-paying citizens, we deserve attention’: Karachi’s upper-middle class and the politics of governance

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This paper presents a particular moment of infrastructural collapse in Karachi to trace the emergent relations of governance between the city government and the residents of Clifton Block 7, an upper middle-class neighborhood in Karachi. By elaborating how the monsoon rains in 2009 became a catalyst for civic and political engagement for a particular group of people who had historically remained aloof from the public sphere, I will highlight how a moment of crisis became a transformative moment for participatory governance. Reading the event in relation to a wider politics of infrastructural development in Karachi, I argue that Block 7 residents sought inspiration from the poorer urban counterparts in negotiating a realm of governance that was clearly contested, contingent, and political. They successfully operationalized a rights-based discourse to seek political patronage from the city government, and in doing so were able to transform their neighborhood into an exclusive, secure enclave that was governed through an informal participatory arrangement. Through the case study of Clifton Block 7, I will build on scholarship which argues to disrupt neatly delineated concepts of insurgency, informality, and civil society/political society, (Coelho and Venkat, 2009; Lemanski and Lama-Rewal, 2013; Roy, 2009; McFarlane, 2012). I will argue that in Karachi’s context, an environment of perpetual uncertainty, insecurity, and exception is productive of a form of governance that is predicated on ambiguity. Such forms of governance exacerbate existing socio-material inequalities in an already divided and contested megacity.

This talk is part of the Infrastructural Geographies - Department of Geography series.

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