WAR, VISUALITY AND THE MILITARISED CITY
War, Visuality and the Militarised City is an essay that explores the emerging visualities and architectures of development and militarization in Karachi. Following 9/11, security analysts delimited Karachi as an epicentre of terrorism, marking the city as ‘a distinctive battlefield of the 21st century.’ Forged in the image of this new imperial gaze, the city was subject to immense transformation as its spaces were reconfigured and activated in the service of wartime agendas. Much of this violence unfolds at the peripheries of the city in spaces discursively produced by the state, law-enforcement and media as ‘no-go zones.’ In September 2013, the Pakistan paramilitary launched the ongoing Karachi Operation with a special mandate to ‘police, surveil and secure’ the ‘vast suburbs of Karachi.’ Inhabited largely by Pashtun refugee and indigenous Sindhi and Baloch populations, these spaces become proxy sites for the war on terror, brutally policed and surveilled for the purported potentiality of insurgents amongst the refugees and natives – locking these communities in devastating cycles of resettlement, raids and ruination.
The abject violence surrounding these transformations is both obscured and upheld by a discursive and visual regime dedicated to the legitimisation of war. Modern war visuality plays an essential role in sanitizing this state sanctioned violence and activating the entire city in service of it. Using the examples of the Karachi Operation and the private mega-development project of Bahria Town, we explore the linkages between visuality, war, and urbanism. Focusing on the discursive and spatial production of the ‘no-go zone’, we highlight the ways in which militarization and development intertwine to naturalise each other’s conquering, settling and colonising acts.
This essay was published in 2019 in Perspecta: Yale Architectural Journal 52.