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Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi
Category->Ethnic Studies
Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi

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By Steve Inskeep. From the host of NPR's Morning Edition, a deeply reported portrait of Karachi, Pakistan, a city that illuminates the perils and possibilities of rapidly growing metropolises all around the world. In recent decades, the world has seen an unprecedented shift of people from the countryside into cities. As Steve Inskeep so aptly puts it, we are now living in the age of the "instant city," when new megacities can emerge practically overnight, creating a host of unique pressures surrounding land use, energy, housing, and the environment. In his first book, the co-host of Morning Edition explores how this epic migration has transformed one of the world's most intriguing instant cities: Karachi, Pakistan.

Karachi has exploded from a colonial port town of 350,000 in 1941 to a sprawling metropolis of at least 13 million today. As the booming commercial center of Pakistan, Karachi is perhaps the largest city whose stability is a vital security concern of the United States, and yet it is a place that Americans have frequently misunderstood. As Inskeep underscores, one of the great ironies of Karachi's history is that the decision to divide Pakistan and India along religious lines in 1947 only unleashed deeper divisions within the city-over religious sect, ethnic group, and political party.

 

In Instant City, Inskeep investigates the 2009 bombing of a Shia religious procession that killed dozens of people and led to further acts of terrorism, including widespread arson at a popular market. As he discovers, the bombing is in many ways a microcosm of the numerous conflicts that divide Karachi, because people wondered if the perpetrators were motivated by religious fervor, political revenge, or simply a desire to make way for new real estate in the heart of the city. Despite the violence that frequently consumes Karachi, Inskeep finds remarkable signs of the city's tolerance, vitality, and thriving civil society-from a world-renowned ambulance service to a socially innovative project that helps residents of the vast squatter neighborhoods find their own solutions to sanitation, health care, and education. Penguin Press (2011), English, Hardcover: 304 pages.

"The opening reads like a sophisticated thriller... It's in the ordinary fates of the ordinary people that {Inskeep} finds the extraordinary spirit of Karachi... Not many politicians read books in Karachi, but if they were to read one, let it be Instant City." -- Mohammed Hanif ("A Case of Exploding Mangoes"), Publishers Weekly 

"Instant City is one of the best books ever written about Pakistan, with everything a combination of travelogue and political commentary should have.... This book will challenge everything you thought you knew about Pakistan and the region.  Stop watching the damn news! Read this book now." -- Anis Shivani, Huffington Post

 

"Inskeep writes with dramatic flair. He introduces us to the city through a day in its life and, because this is Karachi, the day is a violent one.. The sequence of events reads like a movie script...For those exasperated and puzzled by Pakistan, "Instant City" is an excellent introduction." - Akbar S. Ahmed, Washington Post

 

"Inskeep seemingly looked at everything and talked to everyone. He finds the promise of Karachi, 'the most powerful force in the instant city; the desire of millions of people to make their lives just a tiny bit better than they were.'  Passionate and compassionate reporting on an extraordinary city." - Kirkus Reviews

 

"Informative, ambitious, chaotic, and sometimes glorious... Plunging into the immensity of Karachi and its mushrooming population, Inskeep finds individuals selflessly dedicated to improving life in their beleaguered city." - Rayyan Al-Shawwaf, Christian Science Monitor 

 

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