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From the migrant perspective,

Burnt Shadows

represents in detail the

plight of people in diaspora regardless of their attachment to or

distance from their countries of origin. The novel directly addresses

the convergences and disjunctions among diaspora, the nation, and the

world, thereby making a critical intervention in diaspora, postcolonial,

and globalization studies. As Vinay Dharwadker points out, over the

last three decades or so, in postcolonial and globalization studies, the

association of diaspora and cosmopolitanism derives from “a series of

links between migration and hybridity and diaspora and creolization,”

as evidenced, for example, by Salman Rushdie’s

The Satanic Verses


Homi K. Bhabha’s theories (2011: 126). Shamsie’s novel does not

negate the possibility of achieving cosmopolitanism through diaspora,

as my later analysis will show; yet, it questions the general association

between the two without distinguishing “subaltern diasporas and elite

diasporas” and “what kinds of diaspora consciousness and double

consciousness they develop” (Dharwadker, 2011: 141). In the novel,

Shamsie depicts how, in the post-9/11 United States, an illegal Afghan

migrant worker is denied basic human rights, not to mention an

opportunity to intermingle in two cultures, because of his ethnicity and

socioeconomic class. Abdullah, Raza’s childhood friend, is an Afghan

working illegally as a taxi driver in New York. Because he is an

undocumented migrant worker, he “jumped out of the window” when

“some FBI guys came around to his apartment building” and “knocked

on the door” (Shamsie, 2009a: 304). Even though he runs away simply

out of fear, his act is taken as “evidence of terrorism” (305) in the wake

of 9/11. If Abdullah is arrested, he could be detained indefinitely as a

terror suspect in compliance with the Patriot Act. It would have been a

benign act of protecting human rights had Kim, at Raza’s request,

helped innocent Abdullah leave the United States. And yet, when Kim

drives Abdullah across the border and arrives in Canada, her patriotism

gives her the impulse to secretly report Abdullah to the police. At the

same time, Raza is at the border to return from Afghanistan to the

United States and finds the police arriving to arrest Abdullah. In order

to protect Abdullah, Raza comes out and is himself arrested by the