From imperial ‘unhappy valley’, to decapitated province, commercial capital, and 21st century megacity, this article reflects on relations of separateness and connectivity between Sindh and its capital city Karachi. These culminated in Pakistan’s post-Independence years, in official and political language, governances of national, provincial and city division, and political rhetoric and violence. The article asks what else might be uncovered about their relationship other than customary alignments and partitions between an alien urban behemoth and a provincial periphery. It develops a topographical view to refer to the physical arrangement of environments but also people’s profane, spiritual and political connections and losses involving place and dwelling. This is expanded through examples of land appropriations involving urban real-estate devel- opment, environmental migrations and displacement, the idiom of the hijra and Sufistic devotion, and ethnic nationalist and religious extremism. The article questions ways losses of ground and attachment might unite people across provincial divides in an alternative, forward motion of cohabitation. It reveals a multi-layered historical tracing of ways that Sindh, as it is lived in Karachi and vice versa, digresses and wanders through deep cross-regional dynamics and devel- opments. These create new departures from self and place, and rebuff the tendency to centre ‘other’ knowledges as the starting-point and epistemology for studies of Karachi and Sindh. Last, Karachi is a useful optic for thinking about continuities of colonialism and postcolonialism, crisis and fracture in South Asia; ways these are infused with planetary urbanization dynamics, and local, regional and national developments that resist easy universalism.
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