Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Book Review: Instant City

The Age of the "Instant City" is at an end. The subtitle of Steve Inskeep's new book is "Life and Death in Karachi". The Pakistani city serves as a case study for the urban boom in the wake of World War II. You'll learn as much about urban planning as you will Pakistan. The problem is migration, first political refugees (partition of India) and then economic refugees (rural to urban). The latter movement connects Karachi with the likes of Los Angeles, Houston, and Phoenix. All are, according to Inskeep, instant cities.
Inskeep defines instant cities in terms of population. The cities are growing at a much faster rate than the host nation state. I would define instant cities in terms of sprawl and the [seemingly] endless search for greenfields. Karachi's expansion in terms of area is as impressive as the spiraling population. There is more to manage than just religious differences.
Greenfields are "blank slates" best suited for the rationally planned community that was a hallmark of the era of logical positivism. Inskeep offers up Islamabad as a contrast to Karachi, which was anything but a blank slate.

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