Violence in Lahore and the Urban-ness of Terrorism

The terrorist strike in Lahore is not getting as a much news time as it needs. Along with the violence that has hit Karachi, Peshawar, Quetta, and Rawalpindi, it suggests a geographic spread to the Taliban’s activities and a set of dominoes falling. I am not well-schooled enough in international relations to really understand what is going on here, but it’s worrying both for its cost in human life and what it portends for the future of Pakistan.

In my class on the Urban Context, I ask students to explain whether (or not) terrorism is a uniquely urban phenomenon. One of the things that strikes me about many terrorists (not all) is that they use city and country in particular ways. Bonnie and Clyde*, though ostensibly not political murderers, were discussed in the media as rural bandits who stole from city fatcats and took down the man’s police lackeys. The Weather Underground used the anonymity of the city to hide in plain sight. Timothy McVeigh selected an urban location to avenge what he considered to be a rural wrong. The city becomes the site of the enlarged state; it is also the platform for major social and cultural change. As such, it’s a target for those who want radical social change, either through the ostensible opposing of it (let’s go back to what we imagine Islam was in the 17th century) and those who wish to speed it up.

*Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.