Life Support: Energy, Environment and Infrastructure in the Novels of Mohsin Hamid

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If we do not solve the energy problem in the next three or four years, [Pakistan] won't be safe. We will ultimately end up with no electricity, no water, no employment, no money. This is very critical to our survival.

Khawaja Muhammad Asif, Pakistan's Minister for Water and Power,
interview with Time Magazine, October 9, 2013.1

To be a man whose life requires being plugged into machines, multiple machines, in your case interfaces electrical, gaseous, and liquid, is to experience the shock of an unseen network suddenly made physical, as a fly experiences a cobweb.

Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia.2

In the final weeks of his long and lucrative life, the unnamed protagonist of Mohsin Hamid's How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia lies in hospital with a terminal diagnosis. There he experiences as many of us no doubt will, if we are lucky enough to live so long and to have access to the life-extending technologies that his personal wealth affords him the profound self-alienation of "an unseen network suddenly made physical." As his internal workings fail, they are externalized in the machines that surround him in his hospital room. For the first time in his life, the unconscious functions of his body become objects of ambivalent consciousness, of fascination and terror. Seeing the network upon which his life depends, he feels mortally caught up in it, "as a fly experiences a cobweb." Age and illness alienate the body from the self, and so the body's continued functioning becomes the object of cognitive work and worry. Youth and health, by extension, generally imply the opposite: they mean not having to think about how one's body works, or to worry that it won't.

But How to Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia is neither a personal memoir nor a meditation on individual mortality. It is, as Fredric Jameson would say, a national allegory.3 More precisely, Mohsin Hamid's first three novels Moth Smoke (2000), The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007), and How to Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia (2013) function as national allegories focalized around national infrastructure, particularly in the Department of Water and Power. The allegory establishes itself in How to Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia in part through the conceit of anonymity. The setting is never specified beyond "Rising Asia," and the protagonist is unnamed, referred to throughout the novel in the second person as "you." It is reasonable to infer Pakistan and, more specifically, Lahore as the setting, because Hamid divides his time between there, New York and London, and because it is the setting of his previous two novels. And when we read the passage narrating the protagonist's imminent death next to the remarks about Pakistan's dire "energy problem" from real-life Minister for Water and Power Khawaja Muhammad Asif, we begin to see that the critical condition of the unnamed protagonist mirrors the critical condition of Pakistan as a whole. The "interfaces electrical, gaseous, and liquid" keeping the protagonist alive are textual reflections of the infrastructural triumvirate of water, gas, and electricity: the vast circulatory systems keeping the nation alive in which "you" once played a vital part as a private provisioner of potable water. Pakistan has an "energy problem," says Minister Asif, the solving of which is "critical to our survival." Both the protagonist and the nation are being kept alive, just barely, by electricity. If the grid fails and it does fail, on a daily basis Pakistan fails, and so do "you."

For the last three decades, Pakistan has been subject to an ever-deepening nationwide energy infrastructure emergency.4 Frequent and lengthy blackouts mean that the nation knows all too well what it is to "experience the shock of an unseen network suddenly made physical." By contrast, for the developed world, the electrical grid works well enough that it can be, in another of the narrator's felicitous phrases, "mercifully unconsidered."5 On June 2, 2015, Pakistan's Finance Minister Ishaq Dar, along with the ministers of 57 other member states, signed the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) agreement in Bejing. Dar told the press that the Pakistani government believed their membership in the AIIB would "cater to the needs of the region" particularly in terms of "energy and communications infrastructure development."6 Such infrastructural development is the overriding subject of Mohsin Hamid's first three novels.7 By infrastructure, I mean two things: 1) a set of material structures and networks, usually subsidized by the state and considered essential to the nation's functioning and flourishing, restricted for the purposes of this essay to electrical distribution and water supply and 2) a discursive thing, a mutable concept circulating in the language of political economy and political ecology that indexes, defines, and invents the material forms that such structures and networks have taken in the past and the possible forms they might take in the future. The material structures of electricity grids and water supply networks have their conceptual counterpart in the discourses and institutions of "water and power." But this relationship is causally complex, far from a one-way street between signified and signifier.

What does it mean to interpret Hamid's novelistic fictions by thinking through what Minister Asif calls Pakistan's "energy problem"? It means taking seriously Patricia Yaeger's proposal that we try to read literary texts in relation to the dominant energy regime within which they are written, to discover what she calls their "energy unconscious."8 It means engineering a literary-critical method for what Dominic Boyer and Imre Szeman have called the energy humanities.9 It means reading for energy infrastructures, their presences and absences, their adequacies and inadequacies, their costs and benefits; it means reading for the symbolic structures of material infrastructures, and for the ways in which those symbolic structures impact the construction of setting, plot and character in fiction. Since Hamid's fictions thematize energy infrastructures, the job will appear fairly straightforward at first. But part of my argument here is that the energy problem is structurally deeper than theme.

Neither the energy humanities nor the much better established environmental humanities have achieved full legitimacy in literary criticism because they tend to remain thematically based. However, the scope and methods of the environmental humanities have undergone major expansions in recent years, driven by an increasing awareness of anthropogenic global warming, species endangerments and extinctions, and resource depletion. If ecocriticism had previously been limited within a narrow field of British and American literature since about 1850 that concerned itself explicitly with the environment, it has, in recent decades, begun to confront the uneven distribution of the benefits of economic development, and the consequences of environmental degradation, across the globe.10 But calls for new approaches to ecocriticism often stop short of offering new methodologies for literary criticism. Malcolm Sen observes, for example, that while postcolonial ecocriticism "needs urgently to analyse the current environmental and developmental conditions in which the postcolonial subject resides," it "has not yet developed an approach which matches the complexity of the literature."11

This essay proposes "infrastructualism" as one such approach. Defined in a general sense by Caroline Levine as "the practice of attending closely to the jostling, colliding, and overlapping of social, cultural, and technological forms," infrastructuralism in the case of Hamid's novels entails reading the energy infrastructures of his fictions as an integral part of their setting, and reading literary setting with the same careful attention usually afforded to character and plot.12 I take my cue in part from Leerom Medovoi's 2010 essay "The Biopolitical Unconscious," which powerfully combines Marxist literary criticism and Foucauldian discourse theory with ecocriticism to claim that "setting" is the master concept of ecocriticsm as it relates to fiction. But ecocriticism tends to reify "setting" back into "the environment" and to fetishize "the environment" as a kind of anthropomorphized, embattled protagonist: a Manichean struggle between anthropocentrism (bad) and ecocentrism (good). The methodological challenges mounted by Medovoi's essay are therefore: firstly, to learn to analyze setting in fiction as a dynamic discursive process of environmentalization instead of an objective thing called the environment; and secondly, to learn to read setting beyond literary theme, in the deep structure of fictional form. As Medovoi shows, the "environment" may initially appear as an ecocritical subject, but a little historical examination reveals that the "environment" is rather a discursive category invented by capitalism itself in order to exploit the natural world with ever more totalizing force.13 Presumably, there is a formalist way to examine setting in fiction that will help us to see this more clearly, although "The Biopolitical Unconscious" serves mainly as a call to arms; the essay does not offer an exemplar of the critical practice for which it calls. Hamid's novels offer critical purchase on Medovoi's injunction to read for setting, because they narrate Pakistan's energy sector as if it were their setting. And they treat that energy setting as if it were the dominant motor of the novels' plots and the dominant force shaping their forms.

Total Development

In order to understand how energy infrastructure might function as a distinctive kind of setting in Hamid's novels, we must first of all understand how energy infrastructure, alongside our concept of the environment, became a dominant aspect of governmentality in the 20th and 21st centuries. Infrastructure has become something of a buzzword in international banking in the last few years. The BRICS New Development Bank (NDB) opened in Shanghai on July 22, 2015, two months after the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank held its inaugural signing ceremony in Bejing. The NDB's stated mission is to fund urgent infrastructure projects in the BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa. China Daily's article announcing the opening was straightforwardly titled "Infrastructure aid is goal of new bank."14 But if the new bank's mission is to build and maintain critical infrastructures, its political stance is shaped as a protest against the long history of European colonialism and American-style neocolonialism. The five founding members of the NDB came together to form a financial alternative to the seventy-year dominance of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, a direct challenge to what remains of the Bretton Woods status quo since 1944. Where China Daily's headline tells a story of infrastructural improvement, Al-Jazeera's headline tells a story of international conflict instead: "BRICS Announce $200B challenge to World Financial Order: World's emerging economies finally back up years of anti-Western rhetoric by launching rivals to the World Bank and IMF."15 Six months later Forbes shrieked back: "BRICS New Development Bank Threatens Hegemony of U.S. Dollar."16 Sidestepping the challenge to his own institution with nimble diplomacy, the president of the World Bank, Jim Yong Kim, made a statement of bland neutrality: "the NDB joins a growing number of multilateral institutions ... that are working to address the world's huge infrastructure needs."17

Kim's statement is meant to be ambiguous: to ratify the uncontroversial goal of improving infrastructure generally, while also reserving the right to take an adversarial stance toward the NDB specifically, and very possibly toward the AIIB as well, whose foundation about a year before the NDB was directly opposed by the United States. In fact, in October of 2014, Kim oversaw the launching of the World Bank's bid to compete with the NDB and the AIIB, the Global Infrastructure Facility (GIF).18 Speaking about the AIIB on National Public Radio, former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Lawrence Summers warned, "We're contemplating a major institution in which the United States has no role, that the United States made substantial efforts to stop and failed."19 He went on in the same darkly prophetic tones on his blog: "This past month may be remembered as the moment the United States lost its role as the underwriter of the global economic system."20

This is, at the very least, somewhat exaggerated. But even if it were true, depending on one's point of view, the tectonic shift in global economic power that Summers supposes might not be so terrifying it might, in fact, signal relief from years of economic terror suffered in the nations of the Global South at the hands of the Structural Adjustment Policies (SAPs) of the IMF and the World Bank. Whatever one might make of the overall institutional history and political legacy of the World Bank, it began its history with a verifiable dedication to infrastructure projects in the Global South, and ended it if we are seeing its end with a record of privatization, financialization, and bureaucratization that has utterly forsaken its original project to aid the modernization of poor countries. As Franco Moretti and Dominique Petre have recently pointed out, the discourse of the World Bank what they call "Bankspeak" reveals at the level of vocabulary and syntax a policy transmogrified from an emphasis on material infrastructures to an emphasis on finance, management, and governance.21 Michael Hudson characterized the shift more bluntly, arguing that "the neoliberal American philosophy of development is an Orwellian term for the absence of development. It reverses development."22 From the point of view of the BRICS and other developing countries, this shift in policy and discourse has proven a political and ethical failure. That failure paved the way for the AIIB and the NDB to step in, with promises to fund critical infrastructure projects in their member states.

The insistence on infrastructure projects by the new banks is part of a movement in the BRICS and other underdeveloped nations that goes by the name Neo-Developmentalism, a term coined in 2003 by Brazilian economist Luiz Carlos Bresser-Pereira. According to Cornel Ban, Neo-Developmentalism is an economic movement dedicated to "marrying developmentalism and the welfare state," or merging "structuralist and Keynesian thinking into a new development paradigm."23 The state can be expected to take a much stronger role in NDB and AIIB development projects than it does in similar projects helmed by the World Bank or IMF, many of which stipulate, as a condition of their financing, the privatization and/or deregulation of basic services.

Neo-Developmentalism is thus a reaction to neoliberalism, and a revolution against it. It harks back in the circular sense of revolution to the decolonizing moment earlier in the twentieth century, just after the Second World War, when many postcolonial states in the Global South sought idealistically to modernize themselves through a policy known as "total development."24 Total development was, like Neo-Developmentalism, based on a strongly interventionist state constructing and owning, in the name of its people, critical infrastructure. In Nassar's Egypt, to use Timothy Mitchell's example, dam construction was a perfect project for the ambitions of total development, because big dams reorganized "forces of nature, systems of agriculture, flows of energy, powers of labor, and material production."25 Big dams took control of populations and the forces of production, and changed them. Moreover, big dams were, and are, powerful symbols of national strength, so powerful that the symbolism sometimes overtakes considerations of social justice, ecological conservation, or even economic rationality. Jawaharlal Nehru, for example, infamously called India's dams "the temples of modern India."26 The big dam construction projects on the Nile in Egypt are significant to Mitchell because the management of such projects financing their construction, overseeing their maintenance and safety precautions, distributing their irrigation water and their electrical output, etc. gave rise to what we now refer to casually, as if we know what we're talking about, as "the economy." Defamiliarizing the well-worn political signifier of "economy," Mitchell offers the term "economentality" to describe the discursive and ideological orientation of those disposed to think in economic terms.

"The economy" emerged as an aspect of governmentality simultaneously with the rise of these big dam projects in post-independence Egypt, roughly alongside the decolonization movement in general. Twenty years later during the OPEC oil crisis of 1973-4, two more terms came into common use. First was "the environment," which "had previously meant milieu or surroundings, but had recently come to be used with the definite article, like the term 'economy' two decades earlier, to designate an object of widespread political concern."27 It was at this time, Mitchell argues, that a politics of "the protection of 'the environment' as an alternative project to that of 'the economy'" definitively emerged.28 A message from President Richard Nixon to the House of Representatives dated July 9, 1970 announced the foundation of the Environmental Protection Agency, based on the urgent need to "know more about the total environment," and to ensure its "protection, development, and enhancement."29

The second term to emerge from the time of the oil crisis was "energy," which became a category of governance by way of the headline-making "national energy crisis" in the US. The crisis, which began to be discussed as such in 1970, actually referred to shortages of electricity in American cities, not to the threatened oil embargo from the Middle East.30 Nevertheless panic about the oil crisis fueled the consolidation of "energy" into a single field of inquiry "concerned with energy and energy policy." In 1973, Nixon set up the National Energy Office to deal with "the question of energy as a single topic of concern"; in 1977, President Jimmy Carter broadened Nixon's Office into the Department of Energy.31

This, then, is a partial genealogy of the technical terminology that culminates in Minister Asif's dire prognostications about Pakistan's "energy problem." Mitchell's work  in both Carbon Democracy and "Economentality"  makes so many provocative epistemological claims that there seems hardly a contemporary concept in the sphere of twentieth century democratic governance that does not end up in scare quotes. But he helps us to understand from economy as "economentality" to environment as "total environment" to energy as "a single topic of concern" that Minister Asif's "energy problem" can be posed as such only because of a twentieth century history of forms of governmentality. Moreover, we can see that the concept of the environment itself as something to be defended against the economy and the department of energy emerges in startling ways from the same historical moment, from a conceptual nexus of competing claims and conflicts. The environment thus emerges paradoxically both as an alternative to the economy, and also as part of a single system born of the economy. Mitchell, in a move similar to Medovoi's in literary ecocriticism, demonstrates that the environment as a concept is not outside of the economy, but in it and of it. And as we are about to see, Hamid's novels take as their setting this very particular definition of the environment; they tend to envision their environments almost exclusively in terms of an energy problem, that is to say, from the point of view of the Ministry of Water and Power.

Feeling Infrastructure 

I found a light switch and switched it on. No result. What a story!

 Samuel Beckett, Molloy (1955)

One of the things that immediately distinguishes Hamid's first novel Moth Smoke (2000), which otherwise concerns the downward spiral of a young middle class Lahori into drugs and violent crime and prison, is the remarkable narrative attention that it pays to electricity and air-conditioning. A month after getting canned from his job as a banker, the protagonist Daru has his electricity shut off for failing to pay his bill. Much of what motivates Daru for the rest of the novel is his desire to get his electricity, and his air-conditioning, back:

Having the power cut is serious. I was a month behind on my payments even before I lost my job, unprepared as usual for the summer spike in my bill that sucks a quarter of my paycheck into the air conditioner, and now I owe them half a month's salary. Power prices have been rising faster than a banker's wages the last couple of years, thanks to privatization and the boom of guaranteed-profit, project-financed, imported oil-fired electricity projects. I was happier when we had load-shedding five hours a day: at least then a man didn't have to be a millionaire to run his AC.32

The whole plot of Moth Smoke is set in motion by Daru's felt need to turn his electricity back on. For a young middle-class hipster, Daru seems to know an awful lot about the details of electricity production in his country, narrating for us the shift from publicly supplied and subsidized electricity unreliable but affordable to privately supplied, import-fueled, premium-priced electricity reliable but unaffordable. This passage can read like the mistake of a young novelist, unrealistically attributing to Daru's thinking technical interests more realistically held not by Daru but by Daru's author: a heavy-handed plot device. In fact, Daru's conceptual and affective intimacy with Pakistan's electrical infrastructure is characteristic of people living in places with unreliable electrical grids. In a place like Jos, Nigeria, as Ulrika and Eric Trovalla point out, the electrical grid has, as a result of its utter unreliability, become "imbued with a superabundance of meaning, amounting to a cosmology complete with moral codes and ideas of powerful actors beyond the horizon. Divining infrastructure not only becomes a matter of gaining access to services; it becomes a source of signs and clues to circumstances beyond those immediately at hand."33

In fact, Daru's excessive attachment to his air-conditioner is narratively fixed in his childhood. He believes that his mother's early death is the result of a blackout. The real cause of his mother's death is a bullet from a Kalashnikov, fired into the sky as a celebratory gesture, that comes down and goes through her throat while she is sleeping on the roof of her apartment building. But in Daru's reasoning, the bullet is merely the proximate cause of his mother's death. The ultimate cause for him is load-shedding, which caused the AC to stop, which caused her to be unable to sleep, which caused her to go up on the roof, which put her in the way of a stray bullet:

Darashikoh believed in consequences. He knew that his mother would not have died if the AC had been cooling her room that night, and when he lost his job and had his power disconnected, he felt more than just the discomfort of the heat in his house. He felt an insecurity, a disease that gnawed at him day and night. Perhaps he merely feared the loss of social status that the end of his air-conditioning represented. Or perhaps he feared something more profound and less easily explained. He needed money to have his power and air-conditioning and security restored, and he swore that nothing would stand in his way.34


This quasi-Oedipal explanation for why Daru is so cathected to his electrical supply is meant to underscore all the ways in which that attachment is not about the obvious things. It is not the "discomfort of the heat" that drives him. It is not "social status," a way to differentiate himself from the sweaty masses. It is "more profound and less easily explained" than that. Electricity takes on "a superabundance of meaning" that manifests itself here in an improbable, "divining" theory of causality, a theory in which load-shedding, not a bullet, is responsible for his mother's tragic death.

What is the nature of this "superabundance of meaning"? Answers come obliquely, suggestively. Daru's clandestine love interest Mumtaz moves back to Lahore from New York, giving as her reason only that she wished to have "a quiet conversation with someone who knew what load-shedding was."35 It is a profoundly weird sentiment, even more so because it actually implies something a bit different from what it says. It is not so much that Mumtaz wishes to speak to someone who knows what load-shedding is that is easily enough explained but that she wishes to speak with someone who knows how load-shedding feels. Her formulation suggests that the electrical grid, which binds people together materially, also binds them together imaginatively and affectively. The imaginative and affective parts of that binding, however, seem to manifest themselves only in the event of the grid's periodic failure. On the one hand, load-shedding is the collective result of people running their air-conditioners at once, a failure of the system that is also an insistent reminder that you are never the only one using it; and on the other hand, load-shedding is a collective experience that, however inconvenient, binds you into a kind of mutual understanding with your fellow grid-sharers: frustration as fellow-feeling, simultaneous collective electrical failure as the lightening bolt of modern social animation. The meaning of Mumtaz's yearning is a kind of technological rewriting of Victor Hugo's famous quip about the theater: in a rolling blackout, the mob becomes a people.

Mumtaz's sentiment about load-shedding, and Daru's belief in the fatality of it, constitutes the "setting," in Medovoi's terms, of Moth Smoke. Consider, by way of further evidence, how the narrator sets up the story of Daru's mother's death:

On a midsummer night that followed a day when the temperatures spiked into the hundreds and teens, much of Lahore was plunged into darkness. The pull of innumerable air conditioners stressed connections and wires and the systems that regulated the eddying currents of electricity past their capacities, and one after another, they failed. The wind chose that night to rest, and neighborhoods baked in the still heat.36

What we can see in Moth Smoke is the first instance of Hamid's novelistic troping on electricity. The setting narrated in the above passage is constituted by the trying relationship between a seasonal heat wave and the national power grid. That relationship is the defining characteristic of Lahore for Daru and, as we'll see in a moment, for Changez in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. The setting of these texts let's call it the energy landscape of Pakistan lives at the vital intersection of the environment (a windless heat wave) and the economy (huge spikes in demand for electricity due to the windless heat wave, combined with suboptimal electrical production and distribution, resulting in load-shedding). We are in a fictional environment conceived around the governing category of the Department of Energy, or, in Pakistani terms, the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA). Daru defines his aims in terms of reestablishing electricity; Mumtaz defines her desire for community not through kinship or ethnicity or religion, but through the electrical grid. These motivations run decidedly against the grain of most nationalist sentiment, which typically draws on cultural and/or ethnic difference to define the contours of national identity. Hamid's protagonists in Moth Smoke are instead drawn to national infrastructure, with all its weaknesses and flaws, as a badge of national identity. Daru, remember, despises the "guaranteed-profit, project-financed, imported oil-fired electricity projects" that are jacking up his electricity bill, preferring, along with Mumtaz, state-subsidized electricity and its consequent load-shedding. And he prefers state power despite, or because of, the fact that his mother's death is linked however illogically  with it.

While energy as a mode of modern governmentality permeates Moth Smoke, energy as a mode of modern sovereignty centers it. Very close to the middle point of the novel, Daru's live-in servant, Manucci, announces: "We've done it [...] We've exploded our bomb." Manucci refers to Pakistan's first public demonstration of its nuclear weapons capability at the end of May 1998, when the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) conducted two separate bomb tests on the 28th and the 30th. The tests were a chest-beating response to similar tests carried out by India between the 13th and the 15th of the same month, which resulted in a predictable escalation of tensions between the two countries. When Manucci informs Daru about the tests, Daru feels "something straighten my back, the posture-correcting force of pride."37 Pakistan's successfully demonstrated modern sovereignty makes up, in Daru's mind, for the shame of its apparently failed modern governmentality, emblematized in Daru's lost electricity. But the point here is that formally, the "energy problem" defines both governmentality and sovereignty in Moth Smoke, delimiting the novel's conceptualization of national environment or setting. The nuclear tests operate as a narrative middle, a structural hinge or a novelistic spine analogous to Daru's posture-corrected back. As a matter of international politics, Pakistan's nuclear energy policy lies at the textual center of the novel; as a matter of national economy, Pakistan's domestic energy policy propels the novel's plot. Hamid does not pursue the sovereign, weaponized side of energy in his later novels; he is more concerned with the civic side of water and power. Nuclear energy does come up again, however, in The Reluctant Fundamentalist: not as a complement to civic infrastructure, but as a threat to it.

The Character of Development

At first glance, 2007's The Reluctant Fundamentalist seems the least likely of Hamid's novels to have anything to do with the demand for infrastructure or the politics of Neo-Development. It benefits, however, from being read in light of Pakistan's energy crisis. So far none of the extant criticism on the novel has explored the topic; much of it concentrates instead on the centrality of the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States to the novel's structure. Largely because it has been read as part of a distinctive genre known as the 9/11 novel, The Reluctant Fundamentalist has become a fully consecrated part of the canon of world literature in the United States and Great Britain. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2007; The Guardian listed it as one of the "books that defined the decade"; the BBC did a broadcast version in 2011 read by Riz Ahmed, who then went on to star in Mira Nair's 2012 film adaptation. In the US, many universities made the book required reading for incoming undergrads, including Tulane University, Saint Andrew's University, Lehigh University, and Bucknell University. The novel is centered on and narrated by Changez, a middle-class Pakistani national from Lahore who goes to Princeton for college and lands a plum job on Wall Street as a Corporate Valuator. While working for a client in Manila, he sees the World Trade Center destroyed on his hotel TV. On returning to New York, he becomes a victim of formal and informal Islamophobia, loses interest in his job, becomes disillusioned with U.S. imperialism and his life in the US, moves back to Lahore, and becomes a university professor and a leading activist against the US occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

Changez's story formally matches Conrad's Heart of Darkness and Albert Camus' The Fall: Changez tells his story to an unnamed American stranger while they are both sitting in a café in Lahore, in the manner of Marlowe recounting his journey up the Congo River to his shipmates while docked in the Thames. Mutual suspicion suffuses the conversation. Changez thinks the American might be a CIA assassin sent to kill him; the American thinks Changez might be a terrorist leader whose covert operatives surround the café, ready to take him out. The high-tension paranoia of the situation lends a fearful jolt to even the most innocuous of interruptions to Changez's story, like when the waiter takes their order (is he in on it?); when their food and drinks are served to them (poisoned?); or when the smell of jasmine suddenly permeates the evening air. At one point, load-shedding briefly interrupts both Changez's narrative and the city's electrical supply:

What bad luck! The lights have gone. But why do you leap to your feet? Do not be alarmed, sir ... fluctuations and blackouts are common in Pakistan ... Ah! They are back! Thank goodness. It was nothing but a momentary disruption ...38

The blackout interrupts Changez's story but also propels it; in fact, electricity is central to it. In this instance, though, because it is grouped together with other more or less banal kinds of interruptions what we might normally think of as background or setting the blackout appears as no more than local color for the visiting tourist: a distraction, we might say, from the mounting hostility towards the United States that Changez is actually narrating. But the blackouts are different than the other distractions because they also form part of the framed story, and there, they do not appear as part of the quaint tourist's illusion about the authentically easy-going or casual attitude of native Lahoris to their electricity problem. In the framed story, the trouble with public utilities in Pakistan provokes instead the narrator's rage, his volatile mixture of shame and pride that produces what Marshall Berman once called "the underdeveloped identity."39 A telling moment occurs when Changez describes the awe he felt the first time he walked through the lobby of his new employer's building in New York, a moment of troubling comparison for him between the United States and Pakistan:

Nothing had prepared me for the drama, the power, of the view from their lobby. This, I realized, was another world from Pakistan [...] Often during my stay in your country, such comparisons troubled me ... they made me resentful. Four thousand years ago, we the people of the Indus River Basin, had cities that were laid out on grids and boasted underground sewers ... now our cities were largely unplanned, unsanitary affairs, and America had universities with individual endowments greater than our national budget for education. To be reminded of this vast disparity was, for me, to be ashamed.40

 Changez admits to shame but also rebels against it, professing pride in the grids and sewers that characterized the ancient city of Mohenjodaro, which stunned the archaeologists who discovered them in 1922 with evidence of highly advanced, previously unbelievable levels of urban development. Mohenjodaro's ruins testified to the Indus people's mastery over water, an infrastructural feature that would not be improved upon for another two thousand years, until the rise of the Roman Empire.41 When Changez identifies his fellow Pakistani citizens with the inhabitants of Mohenjodaro in the phrase "we the people of the Indus River Basin," he not only forges a right of inheritance and entitlement; he also recalls a time when India which takes its name from the Indus River ­ and Pakistan were not partitioned and competing national interests. Indeed, after partition, the Indian government began searching for an archeological find within India's borders similar to Mohenjodaro, so that they, too, could make a claim to a glorious ancient past of extraordinary civil engineering. But the main importance of the link between the Indus peoples and modern Pakistanis is that it creates a continuous history, however imaginary, for the concept of "water and power" that stretches back to antiquity as if Lahore's present struggles to achieve a reliable energy infrastructure were the same as those of the ancient peoples of the Indus. The "grids" of the Indus valley civilization to which Changez refers are not electrical grids, but the word resonates nevertheless with ambiguous purpose in Changez's speech. By referring to Mohenjodaro, Changez clarifies his modernizing ambitions: for him, they are not only reparative for present deprivations; they are also restorative of past glories. Later, on a trip home to Lahore to see his family, he clarifies the reasons behind those ambitions, as he once again feels ashamed while confronting his family's house during an afternoon without electricity:

The electricity had gone out that afternoon, giving the place a gloomy air ... I was saddened to find it in such a state no, more than saddened, I was shamed. This was where I came from, this was my provenance, and it smacked of lowliness.42

Soon after Changez's visit to his parents' house, the political tensions between India and Pakistan threaten to boil over into nuclear war after the terrorist attack on the Indian Parliament on December 13, 2001. Worried for his family, the "shame" Changez feels turns into a kind of existential torture. He is certain he must act but largely uncertain of what he must do:

I telephoned my parents and they told me that the situation in Pakistan continued to be precarious. Moreover, our house's main water connection had ruptured the pipes were long overdue for replacement and the pressure was so low that it had become impossible to take a shower; they were making do with buckets and ladles instead. This caused me to reflect again on the absurdity of my situation, being two hemispheres if such a thing is possible from home at a time when my family was in need.43

The "precarious" situation his parents refer to is the rising tension between Pakistan and India that, they fear, might escalate into nuclear war. But Changez immediately changes the subject in his narration to the problem of residential water pressure. He refers to his family house first in terms of load-shedding, second in terms of its vulnerability to nuclear war, and third in terms of its failed water supply. The house has thus become a domestic synecdoche for the nation's problems with Water and Power. One way to say this is that the oikos, the domestic economy of the house, is standing in for the problems in the national economy. Another way to say it, more in tune with Timothy Mitchell, is that the story that Changez is telling about his home is the story of economentality.

And in that story, Changez stands in, we could say, for the Minister or Ministry of Water and Power. He stakes his identity on the state's water and power infrastructures, so much so that the ambiguity surrounding his involvement with terrorism, which appears to animate the novel, at least for Western readers, is wholly imbricated with it. The proof for this claim is furnished early in the novel, when the American notices a scar on Changez's forearm:

I see that you have noticed the scar on my forearm, here, where the skin is both darker and smoother that that which surrounds it. I have been told that it looks like a rope burn ... not dissimilar to marks on the bodies of those who have taken up rappelling ... perhaps ... you are wondering what sort of training camp could have given a fellow from the plains such as myself cause to engage in these activities!

Allow me, then, to reassure you that the source of my injury was rather prosaic. We have in this country a phenomenon with which you will doubtless be unfamiliar, given the state of plenty that characterizes your homeland. Here particularly in the winter, when the reservoirs of the great dams are almost dry we face a shortage of electricity that manifests itself in rolling blackouts. We call this load-shedding, and we keep our homes well-stocked with candles so that it does not unduly disrupt our lives. As a child, during such a time of load-shedding, I grabbed hold of one of those candles, tipped it over, and spilled molten wax on myself ... it resulted merely in an evening of crying and the rather faint, if oddly linear, scar you see today.44

As readers, we don't know if Changez's explanation of his scar is true or not, and Hamid encourages our suspicion of Changez as an unreliable narrator. Is the scar from a childhood accident, or from rappelling during military training? If the childhood accident story is true, is it then an alibi for his suspected terrorism, as he would have his interlocutor believe? Or it is, rather, an explanation of it, turning his youthful experience of Pakistan's economic backwardness into a justification for anti-West sentiment? We are not told, and so the moment marks a rather interesting blankness in the text: a narrative fault or "black hole" that, as Peter Brooks puts it, "is animating of plotting and meaning since it provokes the reader's search."45

Left: NASA image acquired April 18 - October 23, 2012; Right: NASA image acquired October 1, 1994 - March 31, 1995.

Left: NASA image acquired April 18 - October 23, 2012; Right: NASA image acquired October 1, 1994 - March 31, 1995.

 

The "oddly linear" scar on Changez's arm is a representation of Pakistan's energy problem. More precisely, it is a map of Pakistan's hydroelectrical infrastructure along the Indus River, whose "oddly linear" flow, now punctuated by a few big dams in the north of the country, courses through Changez's narration in The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Daru's story in Moth Smoke. Consider as further evidence these satellite photos of India and Pakistan at night. To the west of India on the left side of the photos, the s-curve of the Indus is visible from space, outlined with electric light along its banks as it makes its way south through Pakistan to the Arabian Sea. Much of the rest of Pakistan is dark a pointed contrast with India, which possesses a larger and more evenly distributed electrical grid. One reason the Indus is lit up so disproportionately is that Pakistan's population is clustered around it; another reason is that the Indus is one of Pakistan's biggest sources of hydroelectricity. That illuminated, "oddly linear" form in the maps corresponds to Changez's description of the shape of his scar; and it corresponds to the scar's ultimate cause in "a time of load-shedding." It defines the novel's setting not so much as "Pakistan" in some all-inclusive sense of the nation, but rather "Pakistan" in the very restricted sense of the national energy sector and the ongoing national energy problem. The scar's contours describe the biopolitical unconscious of the novel: setting become plot.

Changez specifies that the load-shedding event to which he owes his scar was caused by a dry reservoir in winter, so we know that he's talking about nationally subsidized hydropower and not, to return to Daru's contrast in Moth Smoke, about the "guaranteed-profit, project-financed, imported oil-fired electricity projects" that supplement, and sometimes supplant it. The largest dam on the Indus also the largest earth-fill dam in the world is the Tarbela Dam, about 50 miles northwest of Islamabad. The dam is the location of Pakistan's largest reservoir. It was constructed not just with electricity in mind but also, crucially, irrigation and flood control: water and power. Changez's earlier reference to antiquity, "we the people of the Indus River," resonates in Pakistan's modern era through the turbines of the Tarbela. His scar demonstrates his kinship, via the dam, with Daru and Mumtaz from Moth Smoke. Their nostalgia for load-shedding is real but distilled through shame and rage. They share an ambivalent feel for infrastructure that is also a form of nationalism: a preference for bad, cheap public service over good, expensive private service and, at the same time, a call or a demand for better national infrastructure.

Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) of Pakistan Logo

To read Changez's scar as an energy map is to read The Reluctant Fundamentalist against the generic norms of the realist novel. The scar becomes something rather magical, since it indexes the "is he or isn't he a terrorist?" question and that question's insolubility. It is a character  as in a letter of (under)development, a cipher of Pakistan's Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA), their brutal logo. Whether or not the scar marks Changez as a terrorist, it does mark him as a developer, or, to recall the recent history of infrastructural development in the BRICs, a neo-developer. If Changez dissimulates anywhere in this passage, it may be when he claims, disingenuously, that the "source of my injury" is "rather prosaic." Electricity is only prosaic to the extent that one can take its existence for granted. That, of course, is not the case in a place with regularly occurring blackouts. Moreover, the scar itself is not prosaic: it is the physical instance of Mumtaz's nostalgia for load-shedding, a feeling strong enough to make her move back to Pakistan from New York - a feeling, in Changez's case, of rage, shame, and also connection that amounts to a great deal more than "merely" "an evening of crying." Its generic purview is not the realist novel in prose but rather the poetic domain of romance or epic. Changez's scar marks him as a political leader in the both the secular mode of the total or neo-developer, and in the epic-poetic mode of kingship. Changez, as Medovoi points out, is Urdu for Genghis Khan.46

Hamid finished the first draft of The Reluctant Fundamentalist the summer before 9/11, but he rewrote it afterwards, so that while 9/11 might appear to be its narrative fault or break, it is much more likely the case that the core structure of the book lies elsewhere.47 The success of the book as a representative of "world literature" in the U.S. is due largely to the inclusion of 9/11 as a narrative crux for US readers who, after all, don't, or mostly don't, have the same experience of the unreliability of the national grid; US readers do not know, to return to Mumtaz in Moth Smoke, what load-shedding is, or what it feels like. So while the inclusion of 9/11 might make the narrative relatable for U.S. audiences, it might also operate to obscure its base stratum of meaning its infrastructure, as it were.

The Ends of Infrastructure

Finally we return to How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia, in which the character of the developer is "you." The protagonist rises from a poor peasant existence as a boy by harvesting used plastic water bottles, refilling them with boiled tap water, resealing and reselling them. The illegal business thrives in direct proportion to the decay of the public water infrastructure:

Your city's neglected pipes are cracking, the contents of underground water mains and sewers mingling, with the result that taps in locales rich and poor alike disgorge liquids that, while for the most part clear and often odorless, reliably contain trace levels of feces and microorganisms capable of causing diarrhea, hepatitis, dysentery, and typhoid. Those less well-off among the citizenry harden their immune systems by drinking freely, sometimes suffering losses in the process, especially of their young and their frail. Those more well-off have switched to bottled water, which you and your two employees are eager to provide.48


The business succeeds so well, in fact, that it expands into the construction of large-scale water infrastructures, and to the point of corporate legitimacy. That is to say, it becomes larger and larger, and more and more criminal, until it is recognized by the government and flops over into the sphere of the legitimate: "You have thrived to the sound of the city's great whooshing thirst, unsated and growing, water incessantly being pulled out of the ground and pushed into pipes and containers. Bottled hydration has proved lucrative."49

The unnamed narrator of How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia is a permutation of the character of the developer that we saw emerging in The Reluctant Fundamentalist. But here, of course, we are focused on water, not electricity, and here the protagonist is a reflection of the actual path of development in Pakistan, not the ideal path intimated by Changez. Instead of leading the nationalization of water and power, "you" oversee its privatization a mode of development that goes against Daru's stated preference for national electricity and Changez's subtle association with state power. One of the protagonist's last projects involves a housing development that is essentially a gated community of privileged access to water and power services, immersing paying clients in a U.S.-inspired fantasy of electrical and hydrological plenitude. At the point of his definitive "success" in the water business, the protagonist listens to the recruitment pitch of the lead developer of the gated community project known as "Phase Ten":

Other premier housing societies are installing electricity plants. We're rolling them out across all our phases, in all our cities. No, what's going to make ten unique, and why you're here, is water. Water. In ten, when you turn the tap, you'll be able to drink what comes out of it. Everywhere. In your garden. In your kitchen. In your bathroom. Drinkable water. When you enter phase ten, it'll be like you've entered another country. Another continent. Like you've gone to Europe. Or North America."

"Without leaving your home," your brother-in-law says.

"Exactly. Without leaving your home. You'll still be here. But in a secure, walled-off, impeccably maintained, lit-up-at-night, noise-controlled, perfectly regulated version of here. An inspiration for the entire country, and for our countrymen abroad too. Where even the water is as good as the best. World class."50

Phase ten is a first-world fantasy walled off from and nestled within third-world scarcity: your own private ministry of water and power. The people who live in ten do not want to know "what load-shedding is," and they certainly don't want to remember what it feels like. Meanwhile, at the national scale, the ecological consequences of all this public decay and private development are becoming palpable.

You hear reports that the water table continues to drop, the thirst of many millions driving bore after steel bore deeper and deeper into the aquifer, to fill countless leaky pipes and seepy, unlined channels, phenomena with which you are intimately familiar and from which you have profited, but which are now contributing in places to a noticeable desiccation of the soil, to a transformation of moist, fertile, hybrid mud into cracked, parched, pure land.51

But even if the protagonist seems relatively indifferent to the social injustice and the ecological degradation that his schemes promote, he seems to become aware, as he is dying, of the way societies, or national imagined communities, live and die by the extent to which they are able to provide basic necessities for their citizens. At the same time that Hamid's protagonists morph from ineffectual nationalizer (Daru) to authoritarian nationalizer (Changez) to successful privatizer ("you"), the setting itself shifts ground from a recognizable Pakistan to a vague, even post-national, "Rising Asia." But while he is in the hospital, "you" cannot help but make the connection between the body's internal organs and the nation's infrastructures:

The inanimate strands that cling to your precariously still-animate form themselves connect to other strands, to the hospital's power system, its backup generator, its information technology infrastructure, the unit that produces oxygen, the people who refill and circulate the tanks, the department that replenishes medications, the trucks that deliver them, the factories at which they are manufactured, the mines where requisite raw materials emerge, and on and on, from your body, into your room, across the building, and out the doors to the world beyond, mirroring in stark exterior reality preexisting and mercifully unconsidered systems within, the veins and nerves and sinews and lymph nodes without which there is no you. It is good you sleep.52

Here we move away from the allegorical the elegant simplicity of "water and power" is replaced by the many different kinds of structures and services that characterize a national infrastructure and toward the analogical: the nation is like a body. It is perhaps no mere accident that the cessation of extraordinary measures of life support is in English colloquially referred to as "pulling the plug." For one thing, the metaphor tells us something about how we think, or fail to think, about the energy problem, about how electricity comes to seem, never more urgently than when it fails, an essential form of life support.

Scaling Up: Exit West

In March of 2017, Hamid published his fourth novel, Exit West. There the energy problem alongside Hamid's tendency to structure his plots around troubled love affairs remains a constitutive obsession, even as Hamid shifts generically from what could be described as realism to the "New Weird," which in this case works as a combination of magical realism and speculative fiction.53 Saeed and Nadia, the protagonists of Exit West, are young professional residents of an unnamed city that once again resembles Lahore, but their story becomes a refugee story as their country collapses into the chaos of civil war, and they escape first to Mykonos, then London, and finally Sausalito. Their method of travel is the magical part. Saeed and Nadia don't move by conventional means. They teleport through rifts or portals which are narrated with a kind of tight-lipped nonchalance, as though the portals, what they are and how they work, were not of the slightest interest to narrator, characters, or readers. The geopolitical situation is the speculative fiction part. The political turmoil that begins in Nadia and Saeed's unnamed country follows them to each of their destination cities. The novel is both apocalyptic, because it narrates the collapse of the global world order, and post-apocalyptic, because it narrates the lives of those, like Nadia and Saeed, who survive and carry on. In this future world, the dream of state-supplied and subsidized energy is over; the privatized development dreams of the unnamed narrator of How To Get Filthy Rich In Rising Asia are dead; all that's left for the protagonists is to keep moving to wherever the electricity is still working, even if, the novel implies, it won't be working anywhere for very much longer.

In Exit West, the new weird trope of teleportation may appear to mark a profound generic break from Hamid's previous novels. But that appearance is superficial, masking deeper continuities. Instead, what the novel demonstrates is that the recurrent settings, or environments, of Hamid's novelistic worlds are consistently defined in and through water and power. Saeed and Nadia are driven from each city in turn as it, too, succumbs to terminal political and economic decline. In each case, it is the rupture of water and power that signals when it is really time to run. In London, they work "clearing terrain and building infrastructure" in exchange for the promise of "forty meters and a pipe: a home on forty square meters of land and a connection to all the utilities of modernity."54 In Sausalito, they have more or less given up their quest to reconnect to water and power, and yet Nadia's daily walking commute to her job is narrated as a journey through a landscape marked by degrees of energy development:

For work Nadia hiked down, first through other unpiped and unwired districts like their own, then through those where grid electricity had been installed, and then through those where roads and running water had reached, and from there she caught a ride on a bus or pickup truck to her place of employment, a food cooperative in a hastily built commercial zone outside Sausalito.55

Here is a post-apocalyptic society with a de facto class system built on differentiated access to water and power. There is even a lengthy passage in which the narrator compares each city in terms of the subjective experience of its unique energy signature:

The complexities of London's electricity network were such that a few motes of nighttime brightness remained in Saeed and Nadia's locality, at properties on the edges, near where barricades and checkpoints were manned by armed government forces, and in scattered pockets that were for some reason difficult to disconnect, and in the odd building here and there where an enterprising migrant had rigged together a connection to a still-active high-voltage line, risking and in some cases succumbing to electrocution. Overwhelmingly, though, around Saeed and Nadia it was dark. Mykonos had not been well lit, but electricity had reached everywhere there were wires. In their own fled city, when the electricity had gone, it had gone for all. But in London there were parts as bright as ever, brighter than anyplace Saeed or Nadia had seen before, glowing up into the sky reflecting down again from the clouds, and in contrast the city's dark swaths seemed darker, more significant, the way that blackness in the ocean suggests not less light from above, but a sudden drop-off in the depths below.56

Emphasis here is placed on the qualitative singularity of each city's energyscape; the differences between them are defined by the unique topography of their failure some failing totally, others spottily as if a city's infrastructural arrangements could define it as significantly as its cultural politics or its political culture. What, after all, are the network arrangements of a given region's energy infrastructure if not a material manifestation of that region's political culture? How much can we know about a given political culture from its energy infrastructure? Hamid's answer: far more than we may have previously thought. But is his answer a revelation, or a reification? Probably a bit of both. Without a doubt, his novels make us see water and power as a force profoundly shaping his, and our, global political imaginary. Exit West scales up from a national allegory of water and power to a global one. Taken together, Hamid's novels trace a scalar shift from the city of Lahore, to the cities of the global south, to the cities of the world. They experiment with different modes of address like second person narration, and different genres, like epic and romance and the new weird. But their coherence as a project stems from their exploration of the infrastructural geographies of water and power. Hamid's novels are attempts to express beyond what load shedding feels like what it's like, as Patricia Yaeger once put it, "to be stuck, night and day, dreaming of infrastructure."57

 

I wish to thank the Banff Research in Culture (BRiC) program "On Energy," a four week residential fellowship at the Banff Centre that provided the time, inspiration, and collegiality to complete this essay: Heather Ackroyd, Thomas Butler, Marissa Benedict, Edith Brunette, Jacquelene Drinkall, Megan Green, Dan Harvey, Mel Hogan, Cameron Hu, Hannah Imlach, Am Johal, Jordan Kinder, François Lemieux, Ernst Logar, ME Luka, Christopher Malcolm, Jenni Matchett, Maria Michalis, David Rueter, Imre Szeman, Jayne Wilkinson, and Sheena Wilson. Special thanks go to Jeff Diamanti and David Thomas for reading and commenting on earlier drafts of this essay, and for sharing their work with me. Many other friends and colleagues shared their time and intellectual powers to improve this work: Jeremy Glick, Seán Kennedy, Peter Manning, Adrienne Munich, Douglas Pfeiffer, Kent Puckett, Benedict Robinson, Mike Tondre, and the anonymous peer reviewers at Post45. Very special thanks go to the editorial surgeons at Post45, Palmer Rampell and Anna Shechtman.

  1. Asif's statement appears in Krista Mahr, "Pakistan's Struggle for Power," Time Magazine, October 9, 2013. []
  2. Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (2013) (New York: Riverhead Books, 2013), 185. []
  3. Fredric Jameson, "Third-World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism," Social Text 15 (1986): 65-88. []
  4. See Michael Kugelman, ed., Pakistan's Interminable Energy Crisis: Is There Any Way Out? (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2015); and Michael Kugelman and Robert M. Hathaway, eds., Powering Pakistan: Meeting Pakistan's Energy Needs in the 21st Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009). []
  5. Mohsin Hamid, How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia (New York: Riverhead Books, 2013), 186. []
  6. "Pakistan Signs AIIB Agreement," The Express Tribune, June 29, 2015. []
  7. In March of 2017, Hamid published a fourth novel, Exit West, which continues his interest in energy infrastructure but breaks with the mode of national allegory. I discuss it briefly in the conclusion to this essay. []
  8. Patricia Yaeger, "Editor's Column: Literature in the Ages of Wood, Tallow, Coal, Whale Oil, Gasoline, Atomic Power, And Other Energy Sources," PMLA 126.2 (March 2011): 305-326. []
  9. Dominic Boyer and Imre Szeman, "The Rise of Energy Humanities," University Affairs, March 2014; See also the special issue of Reviews in Cultural Theory 6.3 (2016) dedicated to "Energy Humanities," eds. Jeff Diamanti and Brent Ryan Bellamy. []
  10. Ursula K. Heise, "Globality, Difference, and the International Turn in Ecocriticism," PMLA 128.3 (2013): 637; Dipesh Chakrabarty, for example, has pointed out that we must rethink our notions of human difference and human agency through the irrefutable evidence of anthropogenic climate change; "The Climate of History: Four Theses," Critical Inquiry 35 (Winter 2009): 197-222 and "Climate and Capital: On Conjoined Histories." Critical Inquiry 41 (Autumn 2014): 1-23. Rob Nixon has demonstrated the ways in which Western empire, industrialization, and pollution have impacted in massive disproportion the subject populations of the Global South; Slow Violence and the Environmentalism of the Poor (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2013). Elizabeth DeLoughrey and George B. Handley have argued for a necessary widening of the geographical scope of ecocriticism to account for zones of colonial occupation and postcolonial environmental degradation; Postcolonial Ecologies: Literatures of the Environment (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). []
  11. Malcolm Sen, "Spatial justice: The ecological imperative and postcolonial development," Journal of Postcolonial Writing 45.4 (December 2009): 365. []
  12. Caroline Levine, "Infrastructuralism, or the Tempo of Institutions," in On Periodization: Selected Essays from the English Institute, ed. Virginia Jackson (Cambridge: English Institute, 2010): 65, ACLS Humanities E-Book. See also Michael Rubenstein, Bruce Robbins, and Sophia Beal, "Infrastructuralism: An Introduction," Modern Fiction Studies 61.4 (Winter 2015): 575-586. []
  13. Ibid., 133. []
  14. Chen Jia, "Infrastructure aid is goal of new bank," China Daily, July 22, 2015, 1. []
  15. Michael Pizzi, "BRICS Announce $200B Challenge to World Financial Order," Al-Jazeera America, July 15, 2014. []
  16. Jordan Totten, "BRICS New Development Bank Threatens Hegemony of US Dollar," Forbes, December 22, 2014. []
  17. Jia, "Infrastructure aid," 1. []
  18. "World Bank Group Launches New Global Infrastructure Facility," Press Release, October 9, 2014. Kim's statement for the press release made the odd point that the GIF was organized not because of a felt need for infrastructure from below, nor because of a lack of capital for such projects, but rather because of a surplus of available capital with nothing to do and no place to go: "The real challenge is not a matter of money but a lack of bankable projects a sufficient supply of commercially viable and sustainable infrastructure investments." []
  19. Jim Zarroli, "New Asian Development Bank Seen As Sign Of China's Growing Influence,"NPR, April 16, 2015. []
  20. Lawrence H. Summers, "Time U.S. Leadership Woke Up to a New Economic Era," Financial Times, April 5, 2015. []
  21. Franco Moretti and Dominique Pestre, "Bankspeak: The Language of World Bank Reports, 1946-2012," Literary Lab, Pamphlet 9 (March 2015): 1-23. []
  22. Michael Hudson, with Bonnie Faulkner, "The New Global Financial Cold War: The Guns and Butter Interview," Counter-Punch, February 19, 2016. []
  23. Cornel Ban, "What is Neo-Developmentalism?" Development Studies at Brown University, April 23, 2012. []
  24. Timothy Mitchell, "Economentality: How the Future Entered Government," Critical Inquiry 40 (Summer 2014): 480. []
  25. Ibid., 179-180. []
  26. Quoted in Alizeh Kohari, "The Indus Republic," Dawn, February 6, 2014. []
  27. Timothy Mitchell, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (London: Verso, 2011), 175. []
  28. Ibid., 176. []
  29. "Message from the President of the United States relative to Reorganization Plans Nos. 3 and 4 of 1970," Document No. 91-366, US EPA Archive Document []
  30. Ibid., 177. []
  31. Ibid., 180. []
  32. Mohsin Hamid, Moth Smoke (New York: Riverhead, 2000), 73. []
  33. Ulrika Trovalla and Eric Trovalla, "Infrastructure turned superstructure: Unpredictable materialities and visions of a Nigerian nation," Journal of Material Culture 20.1 (2015): 48. On the relationship between affect and infrastructure, see Ara Wilson, "The Infrastructure of Intimacy," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 41.2 (2016): 1-34 (forthcoming). On the issue of aesthesis "a bodily reaction to lived reality" and infrastructure, see Brian Larkin, "The Politics and Poetics of Infrastructure," The Annual Review of Anthropology 42 (2013): 327-343, especially pp. 336-337. []
  34. Hamid, Moth Smoke, 109. []
  35. Ibid., 155. []
  36. Ibid., 107. []
  37. Ibid. []
  38. Mohsin Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (New York: Harvest Books, 2007), 60. []
  39. Marshall Berman, All That is Solid Melts Into Air: The Experience of Modernity (New York: Penguin, 1982), 43. []
  40. Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 34. []
  41. Alice Albinia, Empires of the Indus: The Story of a River (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 2008). []
  42. Hamid, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, 124. []
  43. Ibid., 148. []
  44. Ibid., 46-47. []
  45. Peter Brooks, Reading for the Plot: Design and Intention in Narrative (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1984), 315. []
  46. Leerom Medovoi, "Terminal Crisis?: From the Worlding of American Literature to World-System Literature," American Literary History 23.3 (2011): 653. []
  47. As Hamid recalled in The Guardian, "I completed the first draft in July 2001, a wistful account of a young Pakistani working in corporate New York who, after a failed love affair, grows a beard and moves back to Lahore. It was terrible, as my first drafts always are. My job is to write a book increasingly less badly over time ... A few weeks later, the terrorist attacks of September 11 happened. My world changed. I wrote the novel again. And again. I wrote it in the first person. I wrote it in the third person. I wrote it as a fable. I wrote it in an American accent. It just refused to work." Mohsin Hamid, "Mohsin Hamid On Writing The Reluctant Fundamentalist," The Guardian, May 13, 2011 []
  48. Hamid, Filthy Rich, 99-100. The narrative of leaking pipes is meant, in its context, to evoke decay and neglect, but this is somewhat misleading. Leakage is part and parcel of all water supply systems. On the paradoxical ways in which "leakage and ignorance" thwart the audit cultures of the World Bank and municipal water engineers, and yet remain key constitutive factors in properly managing Mumbai's water supply system, see Nikhil Anand, "Leaky States: Water Audits, Ignorance, and the Politics of Infrastructure," Public Culture 27.2 (2015): 305-330. []
  49. Ibid., 121. []
  50. Ibid., 163-165. []
  51. Ibid., 205-6. The protagonist's analysis of Pakistan's water crisis corroborates that of experts, and indeed probably stems from Hamid's reviews of books about Pakistan, many of which are republished together in Mohsin Hamid, Discontent and Its Civilizations: Dispatches from Lahore, New York, and London (New York: Riverhead Books, 2014). Political scientist Anatol Lieven, for example, argues that "the entire Pakistani economy can be described as 'a gamble on the Indus,'" and that the combination of "climate change, acute water shortages, poor water infrastructure and steep population growth have the potential to wreck Pakistan as an organized state and society"; Pakistan: A Hard Country (New York: Public Affairs, 2011), 30. See also Michael Kugelman and Robert M. Hathaway, eds., Running on Empty: Pakistan's Water Crisis (Washington, D.C.: Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, 2009). []
  52. Ibid., 185-186. []
  53. In their 2008 anthology of New Weird texts, Ann and Jeff VenderMeer define the genre as "a type of urban, secondary-world fiction that subverts the romanticized ideas about place found in traditional fantasy, largely by choosing realistic, complex real-world models as the jumping off point for creation of settings that may combine elements of both science fiction and fantasy"; The New Weird (San Francisco: Tachyon, 2008), xvi. []
  54. Mohsin Hamid, Exit West: A Novel (New York: Penguin, 2017), 169-170. []
  55. Ibid., 194. []
  56. Ibid., 145-6. []
  57. Patricia Yaeger, "Introduction: Dreaming of Infrastructure," PMLA 122.1 (2007): 15. []