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Regardless of whether the United States was justified in dropping the

atomic bombs, the American’s unconditional support for his country

and his reflective protection of national interest irrespective of others’

suffering foreshadows that of Kim six decades later. After learning

what Kim has done to Abdullah and her son, Hiroko says to Kim in

despair, “[R]ight now, because of you, I understand for the first time

how nations can applaud when their governments drop a second

nuclear bomb” (370). It is, however, not the United States

per se


Hiroko criticizes but rather the strategies of imperial and colonial

differences adopted in dividing the world. Like her father, who is seen

by their neighbors as a “traitor” for his public criticism on the Emperor

and Kamikaze (7), Hiroko is critical of Japanese nationalism and

imperialism as well. In wartime Japan, she dreams of the day when

“the war ends there will be a ship to take her and Konrad far away into

a world without duty” (16). Years later when she lives in Pakistan, she

even compares “[r]idiculous” Islamic religious tests required of all law

students to Kamikaze’s loyalty to “Japan and the Emperor, during the

war,” for both manifest “[d]evotion as public event, as national

requirement” (147). From the marginal perspective of a Japanese

victim and a diasporic migrant as self-critical as Hiroko,

Burnt Shadows

manifests the importance of reflexive self-problematization as well as

border thinking in developing a critical sense of cosmopolitanism from


Burnt Shadows

concerns not only how a self-critical individual

like Hiroko develops critical cosmopolitanism through the tool of

border thinking but also how human beings, beyond identities, are

connected by the commonality of their trauma experience in an age of

imperial expansion and globalization. Shamsie represents various

historical and personal traumas in different places, as revealed most

simply and evidently in the titles of the four chapters: “The Yet

Unknowing World: Nagasaki, 9 August 1945,” “Veiled Birds: Delhi,

1947,” “Part-Angel Warriors: Pakistan, 1982-3,” and “The Speed

Necessary to Replace Loss: New York, Afghanistan, 2001-2.” The four

chapters revolve around WWII, Partition, the Cold War, and the War