‘What You See is What You Get’: Local journalism and the search for truth in Lyari, Karachi
Modern Asian Studies
GB : Cambridge University Press
1483 - 1525 p.
Pakistan, Lyari, Karachi, violence, local journalism
Situations of internecine warfare have in common to question the transitivity of everyday life—that is, its capacity to be taken for granted, to flow without any need for explication. These wars within the familiar generate specific anxieties about where to look at and what to believe. Events, persons, places, or objects whose status seemed hitherto undeniable become less predictable, while their worth comes into question. As individuals’ ontological security is threatened, the need for new monitoring devices and authentication procedures arises. Drawing on the phenomenology of civil wars and the anthropology of fakes, this contribution proposes to explore one such crisis of evidence: the nexus of political, ethnic, and criminal violence raging in Karachi's inner-city area of Lyari. Through the lens of local journalism, it reflects upon the tactics of social navigation deployed by residents confronted with chronic uncertainty in all sectors of life. Janbaz, the Urdu newspaper examined here, provides an opportunity to move beyond functionalist readings of the press in conflict situations. While insisting upon the pleasure derived by Janbaz’s readers from the sensationalized rendering of Lyari's predicament, we argue that the newspaper is the site of a continuous series of ‘reality tests’ and the focal point of private and collective investigations, pooling knowledge in an increasingly undecipherable environment. More than through its information, it is through its shortcomings that Janbaz has helped to recreate social ties in a world plagued by discord and uncertainty.