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Production of informal trading spaces - A case of Karachi, Pakistan

Zaidi, Sayyeda 2019. Production of informal trading spaces - A case of Karachi, Pakistan. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.
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This thesis explores the production of informal trading space in the markets of Karachi, Pakistan. Karachi is a multi-ethnic migrant city that has a history of violent struggle between various ethnic groups following partition in 1947. Ethnic claims to space are highly politicised and have led to contest and division in the city. The research focusses on the mechanisms and contextual histories of economic spatial claims as they are intertwined with complex social networks and the power dynamics of multiple actors. Karachi is a divided city whose port-based economy has drawn extensive migration into the city. This has led to political and ethnic tensions and increasing violence between different ethnic communities. While the impacts of violence in Karachi on political divisions and ethnically segregated housing have been researched, their impact on informal trading sector of Karachi is very limited. This research addresses that gap. Drawing on the literature, the research defines the concept of informal trading space as space used for street trading falling outside formal legal and regulatory control, created by street traders and other urban actors through their actions, social relations and political and power dynamics. Based on case studies of three areas (towns) within Karachi, the former colonial commercial centre of Saddar, the 1970s informal settlement of Orangi, and the port-city of Lyari, and studies of informal space used for trading within the main markets of these towns, the research found extensive evidence of ethnically segregated and highly contested street trading areas. Street traders are unable to access trading space unless they are affiliated to a wider network of protection, either ethnic, political, criminal networks or market unions. In this context, urban street traders – particularly the urban poor – have to become affiliated to powerful actors and networks to survive. In conclusion, this research departs from the common perception in the literature of street traders as a marginalised group victimised by the state. In a divided city such as Karachi, the empirical evidence suggests a more complex reality, whereby street traders’ networks become complicit actors in the power struggle over economic gains, political domination and territory, and street traders are political actors in a wider struggle for power.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Geography and Planning (GEOPL)
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Informal trading spaces, Karachi, street traders, social networks, ethno-political groupings, spatial claim, territories, power struggles, violence, boundary demarcation
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 21 May 2019
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2019 09:01

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