Colonial laws, postcolonial infrastructures: Land acquisition, urban informality, and politics of infrastructural development in Pakistan

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Abstract

This article traces (dis)continuities in colonial logics across disjunctures of decolonisation and democratisation through a large infrastructure project in contemporary Lahore, Pakistan. Analysing Lahore’s Orange Line Metro Train, a project constructed under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), the article shows how colonial extractive and racial logics can limit the redistributive potential of typically inclusive infrastructures like mass transit by continuing to shape the conditions of their development and (re)producing precarious configurations of citizenship in the postcolony. It finds that Pakistan’s colonial-era land acquisition law erased a range of land relations and rights from recognition and thus compensation by the state. In an instance of informal policy making, the state eventually created an ad hoc ‘grant-in-aid’ scheme to compensate landowners in informal settlements. However, the scheme continued the property centric politics of recognition embedded in the expropriation law by only compensating people with long-term land claims. The public script of the scheme invoked welfare obligations of the state but structured these through moral-legal norms of property. The postcolonial state thus bypassed the transition from colonial subjects to citizens and instead repositioned people as humanitarian subjects. The article thus highlights the contradictions of developing subsidized public infrastructure in postcolonial cities, where construction becomes another conduit of imposing land commodification and disciplining pro-poor self-built neighbourhoods that have escaped the rigidity of private property.

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APA

Tassadiq, F. (2024). Colonial laws, postcolonial infrastructures: Land acquisition, urban informality, and politics of infrastructural development in Pakistan. Environment and Planning D: Society and Space. https://doi.org/10.1177/02637758241240363

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