Receding rurality, booming periphery: Value struggles in Karachi’s agrarian-urban frontier

Authors: Nausheen H. Anwar*, Social Sciences & Liberal Arts, IBA
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Land Use, Asia
Keywords: South Asia, Pakistan, Agrarian-Urban, Value, State, Land
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: 8212, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In my presentation, I advance new perspectives on peripheral urbanization in South Asia by drawing attention to Karachi’s rural land transformations. I consider the shift from the metropolis to the agrarian-urban frontier as a process that signals the production of a new value regime centered on the devalorization of a rural economy and its transformation into urban real estate, as well as the changing priorities and preferences of the state. I propose that Karachi’s agrarian-urban transformations can be understood as value struggles that pivot on three interconnected processes: (1) strategies of enclosure for the production of private property; (2) accumulation by dispossession that separates rural populations from the means of subsistence through direct extra-economic force such as the state; and (3) ‘value grabbing’ or the appropriation and distribution of (surplus) value through rent between diverse state and private actors. Given this is a deeply political process, the state’s role remains salient in terms of its alliances with varied groups – real estate developers, politicians, brokers, waderas – to make land available for capital. I also touch upon the complex and messy interconnections between property, land and colonial law that are often neglected in discussions concerning agrarian-urban transformations.

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