'Negotiating a Fraught City: Stories of Marginalization & Resistance from Lyari'

Negotiating a Fraught City: Stories of Marginalization & Resistance from Lyari

April 25: "We are delighted to have Dr. Nida Kirmani at IBA", said Dr Faiza Mushtaq, while introducing the speaker of the session. Dr. Nida Kirmani is Assistant Professor of Sociology in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. She has published widely on issues related to gender, Islam, women's movements, development and urban studies in South Asia. 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, gender and insecurity in Karachi.

Dr. Kirmani started the session by discussing the mainstream narrative of Lyari as the Columbia of Karachi, whereas people living in Lyari consider their area as "Karachi ki Maa." She went on to talk about her published paper that explores the impacts of ongoing conflict on the everyday lives of people living in one of the oldest areas of Karachi, Lyari. In particular, it focuses 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 paper highlights how fear and insecurity must be understood as being contextually situated depending on one's social and geographical position within the city. Gender plays a key role in this process. The experiences of these young men demonstrate how emotions, such as fear and insecurity are both produced by and reproduce spatial configurations of power.

Later on, she expressed her views about the complex hierarchy that prevails in Lyari, which is quite difficult for an outsider to comprehend. Also, while discussing the issues that people of Lyari face, she mentioned the constant anger held by these people for media as they portray a manipulated picture of Lyari. "One of the reasons it is considered as a NO-GO area is because of Media", she added. The floor was then open for questions where the packed audience came up with intriguing questions.