Nichola Khan

in Cityscapes of Violence in Karachi

Published in print July 2017 | ISBN: 9780190656546
Published online August 2017 | e-ISBN: 9780190848460 | DOI:

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This chapter by Nichola Khan revisits a complicated relationship she formed with a key interlocutor and self-identified MQM mercenary belonging to Karachi’s Muttahida Quami Movement party (MQM), whom she calls ‘Arshad’. Drawing ethnographic reflections from one year, 1994, and from a longer period Khan spent living in Liaquatabad in the nineties, this chapter troubles the metaphor of madness in order to query ways violence raises existential questions about humanity; to question ways writers channel their own feelings into analyses of violence; and the inevitable partiality and incompleteness of these framings. It also highlights ways commentaries of violence produce a frenzy of fascination and collusion around atrocities they supposedly protest. The single life story is provocative insofar as it does not require cultural interpretation to render experience sensible. It reminds us as human beings to resist violence, whilst raising dilemmas concerning how to represent those who have committed atrocious acts, and about whether even the ‘worst’ cases offer possibilities for positive change.

Keywords: MQM; ethnography; madness; writing about violence; representation; politics of writing; Liaquatabad

Chapter.  7148 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Urban and Rural Studies

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