Ever heard of Karachi? It lies 11,700 kilometers away from Vancouver, on the coast of the Arabian Sea in Pakistan. For those curious to explore the city but unable to afford the airfare or keep hearing that it’s too unsafe to travel, here is your lucky day! Hot off the press, Right to the City: Travel Guide to Karachi will take you on an imaginative journey right to the city.
The Right to the City: Travel Guide to Karachi explores the experience of living in the city of Karachi, Pakistan and the production, representation and contestation of its space(s). Six Pakistani artists – Bani Abidi, Manizhe Ali, Sara Khan, Seher Naveed, Shayan Rajani and Roohi Ahmed – through their works and text, claim the right to represent their city at a time when the growing consolidation of the media is producing a blindness that renders realities opaque and remote. While media reportage on the endless violence and conflict are transforming representations of the city into a dangerous battleground, this publishing project seeks to (re)populate Karachi as a lived and embodied place.
The guide transforms readers into imaginary tourists and enables them to confront the contested geographies of the city. Using visual practices of power and representation, it (re)appropriates the popular medium of a travel guide to give visibility and access to alternate versions of Karachi that are otherwise continually silenced and overlooked. Bring forth conflicting images that resist fixed representations and illusory stereotypes, the project critically questions the discursive practices and geopolitical forces that structure dominant narratives of Karachi.
By aiding imaginative journeys to a city often categorized as “failed and feral” by western standards, the Travel Guide to Karachi disrupts the binary world geography of West versus East. It encourages people to grasp how both sets of (western and non-western) cities mutually constitute each other within imperial, neo-colonial or postcolonial geographies. It resists perspectives that tend to demonize an Orientalized South as the source of all contemporary insecurity and allows the city to emerge as lived spaces of sociality and struggle. The city is revealed as a dynamic place shaped by outside forces but where those processes are negotiated and mediated by people in their everyday lives.