A Different Story

New fiction in English on Karachi

01 February 2016
Karachi—a modern port city of some 20 million people, and Pakistan’s largest metropolis—is much more than the sum of a series of violent events.
A-DIFFEREASIM HAFEEZ / BLOOMBERG / GETTYIMAGESNT-STORY_THE-CARAVAN-MAGAZINE_FEBRUARY-2016_01
Karachi—a modern port city of some 20 million people, and Pakistan’s largest metropolis—is much more than the sum of a series of violent events.
A-DIFFEREASIM HAFEEZ / BLOOMBERG / GETTYIMAGESNT-STORY_THE-CARAVAN-MAGAZINE_FEBRUARY-2016_01

It is difficult for an outsider to think of Karachi and not immediately call up images of violence, death and victims. Scrolling through headlines about the city over the past year is a macabre exercise. In April, Sabeen Mahmood, an activist and intellectual, was shot dead outside a cultural centre she founded. In May, gunmen attacked a bus, leaving 43 dead. A heat wave in June, during the holy month of Ramzan, killed more than a thousand. In August, Shafqat Hussain—tortured at the age of 16 into confessing to the murder of a boy over a decade earlier—was executed.

Amid these spectacles of death, where are the stories of the living? Karachi is, after all, a modern port city of some 20 million people, Pakistan’s largest metropolis, and the country’s financial and economic centre. It is home to many, successive waves of migrants, who speak half a dozen languages. Post-colonial Karachi is much more than the sum of a series of violent events.

There is a pedagogical, ethnographic quality to Karachi Raj, in the vein of what the anthropologist Clifford Geertz called “thick description.” Shivani writes about mundane interactions with sharp attention to detail.

Sarah Waheed is an assistant professor of South Asian history and director of South Asian studies at Davidson College, North Carolina.

Keywords: English Karachi new fiction
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