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Engaging Politically from the Margin 289

character [Vivian] so representative of this contemporary obsession

into an historical novel, Shamsie posits the colonial moment as a

precursor to the clashes in its wake” (n.d.). Despite her elite,

Westernized, and avowedly secular background,


Shamsie, a feminist

and a migrant writer living in London, can be seen to be distancing

herself from progressive Western feminists and, at the same time, she

continues to actively engage in local feminism in Pakistan, which she

spares no effort to advocate, starting with her earlier works. As Ruvani

Ranasinha notes, Shamsie’s first novel “depicts a local feminist

campaign for illegally dispossessed widows,” and the fourth,



, embeds a familial narrative of an inspirational feminist activist

“within a larger story of the resistance to the rise of the Islamic right,

Zia ul-Haq’s military dictatorship and oppression of women” (2012:

203). It is without question that, as depicted in these earlier works,

“[w]hile Shamsie’s fiction depicts Pakistan as a deeply patriarchal

country, she is equally concerned to map the thriving women’s

movements that have campaigned against the social and legal strictures

against women” (Ranasinha, 2012: 203). Similarly,

A God in Every


contains both Zarina, with her “face uncovered” when she

“rush[es] into a street filled with men” (Shamsie, 2014c: 352), and

Diwa, who is “bare-headed” (257) when she is shot by the English, a

pair of Pashtun feminists who prove that Vivian’s Western feminist

ideology is wrong. In them are shown Pashtun women’s desires for

both social change and political independence.

The political and social activism of Zarina and Diwa challenges

some Western feminists’ emancipatory cosmopolitan projects, within

which hides a racist view of Muslim women as passive victims, as

evidenced in the novel by Vivian’s response. In the post-9/11 era, as


As Claire Chambers points out, Shamsie comes “from an elite


family, her

mother’s relatives being


feudals from Lucknow in India, and the Shamsies

belonging to an eminent family of Syeds from Delhi” (2011: 207). Despite her

claim to be a member of the middle class, Shamsie received education in the

United States, and, having written several best sellers, she is able to profit as well

from the global political economic system that has enabled her to make homes in

multiple locales.