12 Pages

Introduction: idea, nation, state

Spoiler alert: this book concludes with an argument advocating the end of national identities. This argument, developed through an analysis of Kamila Shamsie’s 2009 novel Burnt Shadows , doesn’t lobby for cosmopolitanism or hyphenated identities. Instead, the argument concentrates on the novel’s protagonist, Hiroko Tanaka, a Japanese woman who survives the US bombing of Nagasaki and, subsequently, also lives through the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, Islamization under Zia, the Afghan War, and 9/11. Appalled by the lure of collective mythologies, the expense of national belonging, and the brutalities committed by states to uphold these myths and insure security, Hiroko insists on a “human” identity that takes shape through the recognition of historical experience as an equalizing force, suggesting along the way that historical narratives can bear meaning outside of national confi nes.