I am currently undertaking new research on healing, spiritual and care practices in communities and landscapes affected by large-scale infrastructure projects in Sindh, Pakistan. Keeping in mind socio-cultural and ecological transformations that accompany infrastructure projects (displacement, securitization, pollution etc.), I am interested in what new needs emerge in terms of care: impacts on mental/emotional health, environmental illness, fracturing of community/kinship networks etc. I am interested in exploring how indigenous infrastructures of care, medicinal/healing traditions, rituals, practices etc., grow, transform, or fade in these contexts.
Corporations, development organisations, government bodies and NGOs too arrive in infrastructural spaces with their own language of care to give a soft face to the hard infrastructure: ‘sustainable development’, ‘technological progress’, ‘prosperity’, health clinics, education programs etc. How do local and traditional practices/knowledges of care interface with this new regime?
My research is especially concerned with the role/experiences of women. The work of social reproduction has always fallen on women, including knowledge of herbs and healing. Women are also particularly vulnerable to the violent processes that accompany infrastructural development.
Today in the Pakistani imaginary Coal and Dams symbolize the promise of technological progress through the creation of energy. Healing, spiritual, medicinal and care practices are also about the harnessing, the transformation, the production and preservation of energy. I am interested in reading these two forms and ideas of energy and these two infrastructures of care alongside each other. The web space I create will be a space in which I catalogue my ongoing research into an archive of technologies and practices of care in blasted landscapes.
Zahra Malkani is an artist and an Assistant Professor of Practice at the department of Communication and Design at Habib University. Her research-based art practice spans multiple media and explores the politics of development, infrastructure and securitisation in Karachi. Malkani is also a co-founder of Karachi LaJamia, an experimental pedagogical project seeking to politicise art education and explore new radical pedagogies and art practices.