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Karachi: The transformation and spatial politics of a Post-colonial migrant city

Khan, SS; Karimi, K; (2015) Karachi: The transformation and spatial politics of a Post-colonial migrant city. In: Karimi, K and Vaughan, L and Sailer, K and Palaiologou, K and Bolton, T, (eds.) Proceedings of the 10th International Space Syntax Symposium (SSS10). Space Syntax Laboratory,The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL (University College London): London, UK. Green open access

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Abstract

The partition of the Indian Sub-continent in 1947 resulted in the mass movement of people between India and Pakistan with a number of Urdu-speaking, Muslim communities choosing to re-settle in Karachi, Pakistan. These Muhajir or "refugee" communities have now been resident in the city for over 60 years and whilst the term traditionally means "refugee" in Urdu-their mother-tongue-in the context of Karachi today, it refers specifically to the descendants of these first wave (Partition, 1947) Urdu-speaking migrants from India. The community was initially seen as a landless, rootless people but, over time, they have become one of the key actors in the ethno-political landscape of urban Sindh, in Pakistan today. Whilst the political exploits of this community have been extensively reported and documented by anthropologists and journalist as part of Karachi's tumultuous political history, little has been written about the settlements and spatial practices of this amalgam of diverse, primarily North Indian migrant communities and how their arrival, and occupation has impacted and transformed the manner in which the city has developed. Using space syntax analysis and information drawn from master-plans, urban development reports, historical accounts, and political, religious and linguistic identity-markers associated with the Muhajir community, this study analyses how the city of Karachi has grown and developed through the last 65 years of its post-Partition history and tracks the settlement patterns of the Muhajir community into and around the city. The study shows that, whilst Karachi may be considered a Muhajir city, the community established clusters in very specific areas of the city at the time of their first settlement in the early 1950s and, whilst newer areas have been added to the city, these community-based clusters have persisted and densified over time. The manner in which the community has consolidated and marked its spaces in the city and the way their presence has impacted its growth seems to suggest that the community's identity has gone through a process of transformation and concretisation from Muhajirs as disadvantaged refugees to Muhajirs as a formidable ethnic group with considerable political clout that they exercise with regard to decisions that pertain to the growth and development of the city today.

Type: Proceedings paper
Title: Karachi: The transformation and spatial politics of a Post-colonial migrant city
Event: 10th International Space Syntax Symposium (SSS10)
ISBN-13: 9780993342905
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.sss10.bartlett.ucl.ac.uk/proceedings/
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © Space Syntax Laboratory,The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, 2015.
Keywords: Karachi, Muhajir, migrant, clusters, ethno-politics
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1498768
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