Karachi: A Sensory History

Tropics of Meta

IMG_4227 A roaming band of musicians who arrive at weddings to seek donations, tips in Karachi’s Defense Phase Six

Karachi is one of the world’s largest cities—by some measures, the second largest in terms of population, and likely the world’s biggest “Muslim” city. (In this way, it is like the Indonesia of cities.) More than twenty million people live in this messy, dynamic, fractured megalopolis, the center of Pakistan’s financial and media industries and a major commercial entrepôt on the Arabian sea. Pakistan itself has a population of close to 200 million people, making it sixth in the world, just behind Brazil and ahead of Nigeria. This fact reveals a sobering reality: as Bangladesh places eighth in total population, the Indian subcontinent of the former British Raj counts some 1,611,000,000 souls—more than China (about 1.4 billion).

In other words, despite the subcontinent’s ethnoreligious and linguistic diversity, what once was “India”…

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