Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2019
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Liquid Land: A Diasporic Market and the Making of Lahore

In the city of Lahore, Pakistan, plots of land are increasingly traded like stocks. Though land has traditionally functioned as inherited property or a long-term investment, in recent years it has become liquid, or a good that can be quickly bought and sold as prices change. Across a diasporic market, plots of land circulate between local residents and overseas Pakistanis located in Dubai, Malaysia, England, the US, and elsewhere, and in Lahore's oldest residential areas the state is digitizing centuries-old land records in order to increase the liquidity of local assets. However, the social and material particularities of land both enable and constrain financialization in novel ways. While financial markets favor abstraction and rational economic decision-making, land in Lahore is not only physically embedded but also enmeshed in multiple and overlapping regimes of value. This dissertation project investigates how the specific qualities of land entangle with processes of financialization in the city of Lahore. It is guided by the following research questions: 1) What are the relationships between land's multiple and overlapping regimes of value and emergent forms of financial speculation in Lahore? 2) If the physicality of land makes it available to diverse and competing forms of expertise, then what does knowledge mean in Lahore's real estate market, and how is it produced? 3) How are land records produced in the interplay between digitization and sociomaterial practices? 4) How are residents of inner-city Lahore responding to the reconceptualization of their land as liquid?