Tactical Cities: Negotiating Violence in Karachi, Pakistan

Huma Yusuf

Huma Yusuf

This thesis examines the relationship between violence and urbanity. Using Karachi, Pakistan, as a case study, it asks how violent cities are imagined and experienced by their residents. The thesis draws on a variety of theoretical and epistemological frameworks from urban studies to analyze the social and historical processes of urbanization that have led to the perception of Karachi as a city of violence. It then uses the distinction that Michel de Certeau draws between strategy and tactic in his seminal work The Practice of Everyday Life to analyze how Karachiites inhabit, imagine, and invent their city in the midst of – and in spite of – ongoing urban violence. Using de Certeau’s argument to contextualize ethnographic research, media analysis, and personal narrative, this thesis argues that the everyday practices of Karachiites such as remembering, driving, and blogging are ‘tactics’ aimed at creating representational spaces that are symbolically free of violence. Through such tactics, this thesis concludes, cities with an urban imaginary of violence nonetheless boast a vibrant city culture.

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