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Tactical Negotiations: Gendering Mobility in Karachi’s Urban Landscape

Sun, June 26, 3:00 to 4:50pm, Shikokan (SK), Floor: BF, 010


The densely populated, multi-ethnic and largely working class area of Lyari in Karachi is one of the original settlements of the city. This area has become infamous as the site of an on-going conflict between criminal gangs, political parties and state security forces for over a decade, and for this reason Lyari has been labeled as one of several ‘no-go areas’ in the city. However, for the residents of Lyari, their localities shift from being spaces of protection against the hostile social and political environment of the city to spaces of terror at the hands of local criminal gangs and state security forces. Caught in an on-going turf war between various state and non-state actors, the residents of Lyari experience an urban landscape that is fraught with multiple and shifting risks. This paper explores the multiple ways in which residents negotiate this volatile landscape in the course of their everyday lives, as they travel for the purposes of work, education, and for leisure. In particular it focuses on how the tactical navigation of urban space is a highly gendered process. It compares the experiences of young women and men from across ethnic backgrounds in order to analyze how the experience of urban mobility and hence the city itself is affected by one’s social position. The findings presented highlight the ways in which social and spatial boundaries within the city are continuously produced through the movement (or lack thereof) of its residents.