Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  265 / 138 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 265 / 138 Next Page
Page Background

Engaging Politically from the Margin 265

In an interview, Elizabeth Kuruvilla asked Kamila Shamsie, “Is it

important for writers to hold an activist point of view?” Shamsie

replied, “I think the question is, is it important for human beings to

hold an activist point of view?” (2015). This was not the first time

Shamsie has expressed her interest in politics, specifically the “politics

of government” and the “politics of gender” (2014b: 9). Being

convinced that “aesthetics are [


] about precision in representation

through the use of metaphor rather than about constructing a realm

outside of or above politics” (Shamsie, 2007: 150), Shamsie has

written both political fiction and non-fiction. As Bruce King points out,

Shamsie’s first four novels all grapple with Pakistan’s politics:

the crisis caused to local society and the long-lasting

divisions within some families by the migration of north

Indian Muslims at Partition (

Salt and Saffron

); the constant

military coups against democratically elected governments


In the City by the Sea

); the civil war and ethnic hatreds

that led to the independence of Bangladesh and the

violence of the 1990s (


); and the feminist

movement within Pakistan and the Islamic world during

the 1970s and 1980s, and the military’s encouragement of

Islamic fundamentalism . . . (

Broken Verses

). (2011: 149)

Indeed, many of Shamsie’s works are political. As a writer, she has

been actively involved with politics because she believes engagement is

a human duty, and more importantly, because “if you grow up in

Karachi, you don’t have that separation” between “what is happening

at the political level and what is happening in people’s lives” (Shamsie,


Shamsie repeatedly shows how one’s environment impacts one’s

political engagement. If Shamsie’s experience growing up in Karachi

has inspired her interest in Pakistan’s history and politics, what role

does dislocation play in her political engagement? Having grown up in

Karachi, studied in the United States, and recently become a British

citizen, how has she engaged in local and global politics? In this essay, I

address Shamsie’s engagement in local and global politics, focusing in