Imperial Geopolitics in Kamila Shamsie’s Burnt Shadows: From Islamism and Islamophobia to Postcolonial Islam

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för språk (SPR)

Author: Shyamal Chandra Barman; [2022]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: This thesis investigates the relationship between imperial geopolitics and Islam in Burnt Shadows (2009) by Kamila Shamsie. The time frame of Burnt Shadows covers more than fifty years ranging from 9th August 1945 to the attack on the world trade center and the aftermath of the historical 9/11 incident. The novel thus incorporates colonialism, formal decolonization, and subsequent neocolonialism, and a focus on imperial geopolitics shows how Shamsie highlights the connection between these eras. Imperial geopolitics also highlights the importance of Islam in the novel, because Islam, as a religion, is integral to the global formations of power within which the characters live.  The thesis also discusses the relationship between Islam, Islamism, and Islamophobia in Burnt Shadows, and argues that Shamsie exposes how colonialism, and imperial geopolitics more widely, rely on and provoke Islamophobia and Islamism. The thesis also examines how some of Shamsie’s characters engage differently with Islam, so that Islam becomes a site of postcolonial contestation and resistance.  A number of different approaches enrich the discussion, but theories of imperialism, and of Islam, Islamism, and Islamophobia as well as postcolonial and postsecular approaches to Islam are used. Keywords: Geopolitics, Islam, Islamism, Islamophobia, Decolonization, Identity crisis.

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