Neoliberal Development and Social Marginalization: The Struggle of Subnational Communities in Metropolitan Pakistan

Tuesday, 17 July 2018: 08:30
Oral Presentation
Tarique NIAZI, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, USA
Uneven development is a hallmark of neoliberal capitalist modernity that has cleaved national spaces into the rural-urban divide across the globe. This divide let loose investment capital to gravitate to urban spaces, where it created the new classes of nouveau riche, while leaving rural areas and rural communities depleted of their growth potential. The latter triggered a mass migration of the lumpen proletariat, and the future proletariat, from rural areas into city centers. This urban influx swelled the ranks of consumer classes in the service of urban capital. Overdeveloped urban spaces and underdeveloped rural spaces in turn created a vertically growing economy, whose horizontal base remained undergrown and underdeveloped. In social terms, uneven development unraveled the cultural and communitarian integrity of farm-dependent rural inhabitants, especially those marked with subnational identities that are place-centered and deeply invested in their native geographies – the place. Ironically, while these communities remained victims of underinvestment and underdevelopment in their native rural spaces, they remained so as migrants into urban spaces as well. On average, each half of urban populations of mega metropolitan cities in the global South consists of such socially and economically marginalized subnational communities that are housed in slums. This paper focuses on the rural-urban migration in metropolitan Pakistan, especially its overdeveloped and overpopulated mega city of Karachi. Empirically it examines the Pakhtun migration from the Pakhtuns’ native habitats in the northern and southern Pakhtunkhwa into Karachi. It investigates the underlying causes of Pakhtun migration, and tests the uneven and combined development (UCD) theory. Borrowing from social geographer Neil Smith, this paper deploys this theory both in conventional and classical terms (i.e., political economy) and in the contemporary ecological-social context. How capital creates the developed core and underdeveloped peripheries at the expense of human ecology is the central concern of this project.