Farooqui, Usmaan M. “Governing Scarcity: From Postcolonial Planning to Urban Crisis.” Under review at International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.
Dissertation – Precarious Pipes: Governance, Informality, and the Politics of Access in Karachi
My dissertation examines the relationship between urban governance, political participation, and public service access through a case study of water access in Pakistan’s largest city. While scholars argue water scarcity in weak state contexts causes political instability, this project instead focuses on 1) how postcolonial urban planning structures public service provision; and 2) how urban populations shape and contest everyday political economies of water access. I argue that despite its objective weakness in terms of institutional capacity, the Pakistani state has responded to resource scarcity in Karachi through a focus on urban “improvement.”
This project is thus split in three parts addressing how slum improvement policies from the 1980s have facilitated the informal privatization of water; how informalized access prevents “disorder” over scarcity in the form of riots and protests; and how Islamic narratives of “good governance” are becoming flashpoints for electoral contestation in the city’s changing electoral landscape.
My dissertation draws on seven months of field research in Karachi, including 49 semi-structured and ordinary language interviews with a total of 78 informants as well as direct and participant observation of daily water access. I also draw on two original datasets; a Planning Archive (PA) of official city planning documents from 1952-2019 (N=25) and a Discourse Archive (DA) of newspaper articles, third party reports, and policy documents from 2001 – present (N>500).
Article-length projects in progress
“A Persistent Ideal: Voting and the Promise of Infrastructure”
“Hydraulic Labors: Uncertainty, Scarcity and Gendering Access”
“Non-Payment Politics: Financial Citizenship and the Politicization of Water”