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Living the Security City: Karachi's Archipelago of Enclaves

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Stephen Graham, Sobie Kaker


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Like many of the enclaves used by elites and foreign visitors in this troubled megacity of over 20 million, the Karachi Sheraton Hotel is increasingly fortified off from its immediate environment. Blast walls, checkpoints, surveillance systems, and armies of police and security guards continually work to try and control how the hotel’s commodious internal spaces relate to an outside street deemed deeply insecure and prone to unpredictable moments of violence. Today, a widespread logic of military securitization—which Stephen Graham has termed the “new military urbanism”—exists in many of the world’s cities, even those that are not formal war zones. In those cities, an obsession with attaining total security—especially around financial centers, ports, residential areas, embassy districts, and mega events—results in the generalization of the kind of passage-point architectures most familiar from airports to everyday urban landscapes. Enclaves such as those surrounding the Karachi Sheraton Hotel have emerged in response to heightened perceptions of vulnerability within a wider city wrecked by murderous violence. But it is important to look beyond the already familiar physical architectures of enclaved cities per se. By focusing merely on the physical architectures of securitized cities—their fortified walls, checkpoints, and barriers—risks an environmentally deterministic perspective suggesting that these constructions work completely or that their effects can be assumed from their appearance. Complex interconnections between gated enclaves and the rest of the city are easily overlooked. This is especially so when it becomes clear that immense and ongoing labor is required to even create the pretense that relations between the inside of enclaves and the broader city can ever be fully scrutinized and filtered within huge, dynamic, and highly mobilemegacities. In what follows, our discussion will center on the dynamic relationships between those who perform and work the boundaries of enclaves and those who live and use enclaved spaces. We will concern ourselves with the neglected question of how the transformation of megacity landscapes into uneven patchworks of securitized enclaves work to produce novel experiences and forms of urban political life. Our question, then, is simple: How is the new security city, the archipelago of gated enclaves, lived?

Publication metadata

Author(s): Graham S, Kaker S

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Harvard Design Magazine

Year: 2014

Volume: 37

Pages: 12-16

Print publication date: 01/10/2014

Date deposited: 30/09/2014

ISSN (print): 1093-4421

Publisher: Graduate School of Design, Harvard University