Zenana: Everyday Peace in a Karachi Apartment Building by Laura A. Ring
Ethnic violence is a widespread concern, but we know very little about the micro-mechanics of coexistence in the neighborhoods around the world where inter-group peace is maintained amidst civic strife. In this ethnographic study of a multi-ethnic, middle-class high-rise apartment building in Karachi, Pakistan, Laura A. Ring argues that peace is the product of a relentless daily labor, much of it carried out in the zenana, or women's space. Everyday rhythms of life in the building are shaped by gender, ethnic and rural/urban tensions, national culture, and competing interpretations of Islam. Women's exchanges between households-visiting, borrowing, helping-and management of male anger are forms of creative labor that regulate and make sense of ethnic differences. Linking psychological senses of "tension" with anthropological views of the social significance of exchange, Ring argues that social-cultural tension is not so much resolved as borne and sustained by women's practices. Framed by a vivid and highly personal narrative of the author's interactions with her neighbors, her Pakistani in-laws, and other residents of the city, Zenana provides a rare glimpse into contemporary urban life in a Muslim society.