The Hideous Beauty of Bird-Shaped Burns –Transnational Allegory and Feminist Rhetoric in Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows

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Gohar Karim Khan


This paper explores the forces of nationalism and transnationalism and examines the ways in which they are intricately and inextricably linked in Kamila Shamsie's most recent novel, Burnt Shadows. It explores Burnt Shadows for its nationalistic rhetoric, arguing the case for its attempt to critically analyze the status of Pakistanis and Muslims in a post ‘9/11’ world order, particularly within the contemporary discourses on terrorism, capitalism and Islamic fundamentalism. The paper attempts at connecting the novel’s alternative version of nationalism with the forces of feminism, via the novel’s unusual and ubiquitous protagonist, Hiroko Tanaka. It argues that while Hiroko poses serious challenges to existing and normative power structures, her physical body serves as a manuscript upon which national and political upheavals are literally and metaphorically transcribed, reflecting the novel’s demonstration of women’s bodies as sites of conflict between nationalism and colonialism. It offers the novel as an attempt at ‘psychic healing’ – a work that embraces nationalism transnationally, hence propounding an ‘imagined community’ (Hicks, xxiii-xxxi) that makes possible the existence of a kind of ‘horizontal comradeship’, transcending national borderlands and cultural boundaries.

Article Details

Refereed Articles (Humanities)
Author Biography

Gohar Karim Khan, University of Warwick, England

PhD Researcher, Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of Warwick, England.