State Service Delivery at the Margins

Publication Type

Conference Paper

Publication Date



In this paper I examine how Pakistani citizens make claims on the publicly owned electrical utility. The study is centered on the experiences of a katchi abadi (informal settlement without documented land title) in central Islamabad. The myth that communities such as katchi abadis or favelas was exposed long ago (Perlman 1976). Anthropological literature on marginalized communities such as this katchi abadi characterize them as a place to study the state in formation and indicative of the functioning of the whole (Das and Poole 2004). My research supports that contention, finding similarly personalized processes of negotiation and informal practices in the katchi abadi as in the surrounding neighborhoods with well-established land titles. Where the experience of the katchi abadi is more unusual – though not unique – is in the active role of representative bodies in negotiating with the state and even substituting for some of the functions of the distribution company. The extreme limits of that trend can be found in a few residential communities where the neighborhood authority has taken over the management of the distribution system.


Asian Studies | Energy Policy | Political Science

Research Areas

Political Science


Violence, Insurgencies, Deceptions: Conceptualizing Urban Life in South Asia, 6-7 May 2013


National University of Singapore

City or Country


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