Rubina Sheikh

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Susan Comfort, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Thomas Slater, Ph.D.


My dissertation aims to provide an analysis of how select American and Pakistani writers in their fiction, since the fateful day in September 2001, have taken to investigate and analyze the tragedy within the contemporary and historical backdrop of US’s hegemonic and imperial role in world politics. Hence, the impulse is to contextualize the tragedy within the broader framework of history—a history that is largely ignored in the dominant discourses. The narratives, thus written, are resistant to the dominant ideologies and discourses of neoliberalism, and globalization which tend to erase the past and universalize the present. My dissertation argues for the need for a postcolonial framework to discuss the various social, economic, and political factors incumbent for a reading and an understanding of the September 11, 2001 tragedy and the subsequent events.

September 11 has been a landmark in not only US history but also world history and has, therefore, inspired a spate of fictional work. While the works of the writers from the heart of the empire draw out the confusion, the trauma and the profound sense of tragedy, only few have really contemplated larger issues. The American novels chosen in this study are two of the earliest responses to 9/11, and they stand apart from other 9/11 novels in that while articulating the trauma and the tragedy, they are able to move beyond a mere aestheticization of the event and are suggesting, if only in a limited way, an introspective and critical look into the happenings of September 11. Furthermore, these texts stand as representative works of post-9/11 fiction coming from within the United States because of the critical acclaim they have won. In contrast, the Pakistani writers I select here hold a broader perspective. Living at the margins of the empire as they do, they are not only exposed to trauma and loss, but such tragedies are also an everyday reality for them. Their lives are affected by the events that take place not only locally but internationally as well. All the Pakistani writers in this selection have also spent a considerable time living either in the UK or the US. This allows them a unique insight into both the cultures and they are able to analyze the events of 9/11 within an international context, something which the critics lament, the American writers have not been able to do.

My project argues for the need to study 9/11 within the postcolonial context. 9/11 needs to be read, as the novels in my selection suggest, not as the cause of newer forms of violence but as a consequence of them. Finally, my study compares ways in which writers from both the centre and the outpost of empire are bound together by a similar impulse of resistance to the imperial practices and discourses.

The texts chosen for the study include Jonathan Safran Foer's Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2005), Falling Man (2007) by Don DeLillo, The Reluctant Fundamentalist (2007) by Mohsin Hamid, Faryal Ali Gohar's No Space For Further Burials (2007) and Burnt Shadows (2009) by Kamila Shamsie.