From the host of NPR's "Morning Edition," a deeply reported
portrait of Karachi, Pakistan, a city that illuminates the perils
and possibilities of rapidly growing metropolises all around the
In recent decades, the world has seen an unprecedented shift of
people from the countryside into cities. As Steve Inskeep so aptly
puts it, we are now living in the age of the "instant city," when
new megacities can emerge practically overnight, creating a host of
unique pressures surrounding land use, energy, housing, and the
environment. In his first book, the co-host of "Morning Edition"
explores how this epic migration has transformed one of the world's
most intriguing instant cities: Karachi, Pakistan.
Karachi has exploded from a colonial port town of 350,000 in
1941 to a sprawling metropolis of at least 13 million today. As the
booming commercial center of Pakistan, Karachi is perhaps the
largest city whose stability is a vital security concern of the
United States, and yet it is a place that Americans have frequently
As Inskeep underscores, one of the great ironies of Karachi's
history is that the decision to divide Pakistan and India along
religious lines in 1947 only unleashed deeper divisions within the
city-over religious sect, ethnic group, and political party. In
"Instant City," Inskeep investigates the 2009 bombing of a Shia
religious procession that killed dozens of people and led to
further acts of terrorism, including widespread arson at a popular
market. As he discovers, the bombing is in many ways a microcosm of
the numerous conflicts that divide Karachi, because people wondered
if the perpetrators were motivated by religious fervor, political
revenge, or simply a desire to make way for new real estate in the
heart of the city. Despite the violence that frequently consumes
Karachi, Inskeep finds remarkable signs of the city's tolerance,
vitality, and thriving civil society-from a world-renowned
ambulance service to a socially innovative project that helps
residents of the vast squatter neighborhoods find their own
solutions to sanitation, health care, and education.
Drawing on interviews with a broad cross section of Karachi
residents, from ER doctors to architects to shopkeepers, Inskeep
has created a vibrant and nuanced portrait of the forces competing
to shape the future of one of the world's fastest growing
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