BS (Social Sciences & Liberal Arts)

Faculty / School

Faculty of Business Administration (FBA)


Department of Social Sciences & Liberal Arts

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Date of Submission



Dr. Nausheen H. Anwar, Professor, Department of Social Sciences

Project Type

SSLA Culminating Experience

Access Type

Restricted Access


The slum in Karachi is a homogenized category in popular discourse, with slum dwellers seen as backward and the informal nature of the slum termed as illegal. Modern urban planning has historically marginalized the needs of the poor, and the slum is a key spatial expression of that process. The modern state’s attempt to resolve this conundrum has materialized through policies such as slum regularization, which aims to formalize informal land ownership. The anxiety of planners pertaining to the widespread existence of slums is related to informality, which is often linked to the state’s failure to plan the city on more inclusive and equal terms.

The narrative posed in the mainstream suggests that the overlapping government institutions that are a proof of mismanagement of the state and consequently its failure, and this enables informal settlements to persist leading to a chaotic city. I suggest instead, that this is characteristic of the postcolonial city in South Asia, and that it works in favor of both the urban governance and residents of the slum by allowing the latter to make claims to the city. In doing so, I endeavor to problematize the concept of informality and the conventional argument concerning state failure in Karachi’s planning, as this relates to the specific nature of the postcolonial state in South Asia. I argue that informality is not set in opposition to formality, but rather both are enmeshed in such way that the state itself becomes an informal entity and informality can be understood as a way of organizing urban life. My research project focuses on the lacuna in the scholarship pertaining to conceptualization of slums in Karachi. It attempts to not only problematize the planning discourse and existing scholarship, but also pushes for a more nuanced conceptualization of informality that incorporates the state as a fragmented entity.


v, 69

The full text of this document is only accessible to authorized users.