The Production of an Urban Hazardscape in Pakistan: Modernity, Vulnerability, and the Range of Choice
This article reconsiders vulnerability to contemporary hazards within the context of a globalizing world, characterized by the hegemony of technocratic and social modernity. It presents findings of a field study conducted on flood hazard in the Rawalpindi/Islamabad conurbation in Pakistan. Insights from three intellectual traditions within resource geography—pragmatism, political ecology, and “socionature”—are coupled with the landscape idea within cultural geography to develop the integrative concept of a “hazardscape.” This concept is defined as both an analytical way of seeing that asserts power and as a social-environmental space where the gaze of power is contested and struggled against to produce the lived reality of hazardous places. Analyses of the Lai Nullah hazardscape in the Rawalpindi/Islamabad conurbation reveal that flood victims perceive a much greater range of choice in dealing with the flood hazard than do policy makers. On the other hand, flood managers, typically state agents, see a very limited range of choice because of their modernist technocratic engagement with the Lai hazardscape. The hazardscape concept engages the social structural basis of vulnerability as well as the power/knowledge dynamic governing policy and popular discourses on flood hazard in the Lai. Analysis through the lens of the hazardscape helps expand the range of choice and suggests pragmatic solutions to hazardous situations.