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SAP Seminar Series, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun: Gender, Mobility and Resistance in Lyari, Karachi, by Nida Kirmani

Monday, September 17, 2018 at 12:15pm to 1:30pm

Uris Hall, G08

The densely populated, multi-ethnic and largely working-class area of Lyari in Karachi is one of the city’s original settlements. This area has become infamous as the site of an on-going conflict between criminal gangs, political parties and law enforcement agencies for over a decade, and for this reason Lyari has been labeled as one of several ‘no-go areas’ in the city. However, for the residents of Lyari, the ways they understand their part of the city far exceed these facile labels. While their neighborhoods have become fearful spaces in the past, they are also places of comfort, familiarity and fun. This paper explores the multiple ways in which women and girls in particular experience and understand this area. It documents the various tactics used by women and girls to negotiate this landscape in the course of their everyday lives, as they travel for the purposes of work, education, and for leisure. Based on extensive interviews and participant observation in several neighborhoods, the research shifts attention away from solely using violence as a lens to understand urban space—an approach that has so far dominated studies of Karachi in general and Lyari in particular—and away from seeing women mainly as victims of violence. Rather, by focusing on the multiplicity of meanings space holds for women and girls and by highlighting their own creative navigations and everyday forms of resistance, this paper draws brings new insights into discussions of gender and urban space more generally.  

Dr. Nida Kirmani is Associate Professor of Sociology in the Mushtaq Ahmad Gurmani School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. She is also Faculty Director of the Saida Waheed Gender Initiative. Nida has published widely on issues related to gender, Islam, women’s movements, development and urban studies in India and Pakistan. She completed her PhD in 2007 from the University of Manchester in Sociology. Her book, Questioning ‘the Muslim Woman’: Identity and Insecurity in an Urban Indian Locality, was published in 2013 by Routledge. Her current research focuses on urban violence, gender and insecurity in the area of Lyari in Karachi. 

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, South Asia Program, Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Anthropology




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Valerie Foster Githinji

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Nida Kirmani

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