Between spectacle and banality: trajectories into Islamic radicalism in a Karachi neighbourhood

Nichola Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Drawing on ethnography and life-history interviews in a Karachi neighbourhood, this paper surveys a range of intersecting political, social, cultural and biographical forces for violence amongst young men who became political mercenaries affiliated to Pakistan’s student organization, the Islami Jamiat-i-Tuleba (IJT). It argues that political killings are not solely driven through economic deprivation, exclusion, Karachi’s burgeoning arms trade after the mid-eighties, or the notions of Islamist ideology that predominate in political discourse. Rather they derive from resourceful ways people use diverse social and political networks to subvert their everyday difficulties in local communities, and relate to themselves and each other in a violent field of social, psychological and political domains. Within a violent political agenda, ‘jihad’ fuses the spectacular destruction of multiple interrelated forms of power and violence with desires for social and economic opportunity, self-direction, self-assertion and love. Emerging out of interlocking global and local, and collective and individual processes of violence, participation in killings– aside from exhilarating a violent political imaginary-could present an opportunity for transforming selfhood and redeeming the past, offering individuals a solution to their dilemmas of how to be recognized and understood.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)568-584
Number of pages17
JournalInternational Journal of Urban and Regional Research
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2012

Bibliographical note

© 2011 The Author. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research © 2011 Joint Editors and Blackwell Publishing Ltd


  • Political violence
  • Pakistan
  • Jamaat e Islami
  • Islami Jamiat-i-Tuleba
  • biography
  • Karachi
  • locality
  • urbanscape


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