Learn more about: India-Pakistan Relations

The Shadow Lines examines foreign relations primarily in the context of borders and nationalism and emphasizes the individual impact these relations have. The following sources provide more insight on this topic:

The first source presents an overview of the conflict between India and Pakistan, detailing both contemporary developments and historical information. It also describes US interests in the countries’ relationship, in addition to sharing relevant news articles, analyses, and sources. In the second source, Hussain surveys literature that addresses the relationship between Indian and Pakistan, examining key questions related to the potential for both cooperation and conflict between the two states. He provides background on both historic and contemporary developments in this relationship and reflects on the common themes found in the different works.

“Conflict Between India and Pakistan | Global Conflict Tracker.” Council on Foreign Relations,
Hussain, Ejaz. “India–Pakistan Relations: Challenges and Opportunities.” Journal of Asian Security and International Affairs, vol. 6, no. 1, 2019, pp. 82–95., doi:10.1177/2347797018823964.


Learn more about: Postcolonial Indian Literature

British colonialism has had a lasting impact on India. Postcolonial literature in India allows authors to explore and critique the past and its present impact. The Shadow Lines examines the Indian colonial and postcolonial experiences by unraveling the concepts of identity, belonging, and nationalism. Listed below are some sources that explore this topic further:

The first piece examines the construction of relationships in the postcolonial era, focusing on the familial and national connections and interactions between the Prices, the narrator’s family, Tridib’s family, and Ila’s family. Lint also scrutinizes how these characters are influenced by or mirror colonialist tendencies and relationships. Almond’s article analyzes the prevalence of melancholy in The Shadow Lines, using Tridib and the narrator as touchstones for this inquiry. He argues that no character is left satisfied at the end despite persistently struggling after the things they want, which highlights the themes of loss and sadness that pervade the work. This melancholy is further tied to the loss of Indian identity in the wake of British colonialism and subsequent attempts to create a new identity.

Lint, Brad. “Ties That Bind in Opposition: Postcolonial Dynamics of Family and Freedom in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.” Journal of Commonwealth and Postcolonial Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, 2015, pp. 34–44.
Almond, Ian. “Post-Colonial Melancholy: An Examination of Sadness in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.” Orbis Litterarum, vol. 59, no. 2, 2004, pp. 90–99., doi:10.1111/j.0105-7510.2004.00798.x.


Learn more about: Trans- and Multiculturalism

The overlapping and intersection of various cultures is emphasized in The Shadow Lines, due to the movement of characters between and within countries. This movement exposes both the characters and the reader to a variety of cultures and perspectives within the novel, allowing them to take part in a rich cultural dialogue. Below is a source that discusses these concepts: Ghosh’s work defines multiculturalism in-depth and compares different multicultural populations across Australia, Canada, and India. She notes that the nature of diversity varies within these countries, then moves on to explain the effects of multiculturalism on policy making and the state.

Ghosh, Ratna. “Multiculturalism in a Comparative Perspective: Australia, Canada and India.” Canadian Ethnic Studies, vol. 50, no. 1, 2018, pp. 15–36., doi:10.1353/ces.2018.0002.



Learn more about: Indian Migration

Movement, both within and between countries, is a key element of The Shadow Lines. The narrator, Tridib, Ila, and Tha’mma are notable examples of characters who experience movement, traveling between Calcutta, Delhi, Dhaka, and London. See the sources below for more information on this topic:

Peeters’s work analyses the construction of belonging in The Shadow Lines, pointing to Tha’mma and Ila as two characters in the novel that are dislocated and subsequently lose their sense of belonging. The narrator, on the other hand, is inspired by Tridib to overcome the borders and (un)belonging that divides characters and become more mobile, instead of being bound by belonging. The profile, prepared by Daniel Naujoks, covers a wide variety of topics related to Indian migration. It begins with colonial migration in India, then moves on to discuss migration flows to different countries, migration and diaspora policies, different reasons for migration, and the effects of Indian migration. Spyra’s article uses Sita Betrayed and The Shadow Lines to probe how the concepts of cosmopolitanism and mobility are gendered in ways that limit women. She asserts that Ila and Sita are involuntarily mobile at a young age, which destabilizes them and forces them to rely on others, namely men, to connect them to a particular community and renders them unable to find the freedom they seek.

Peeters, Erik. “Crossing Boundaries, Making Home: Issues of Belonging and Migration in Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.” English Academy Review, vol. 25, no. 1, 2008, pp. 29–39., doi:10.1080/10131750802099466.
Naujoks, Daniel. “Emigration, Immigration, and Diaspora Relations in India.”, Migration Policy Institute, 2 Mar. 2017,
Spyra, Ania. “Is Cosmopolitanism Not For Women? Migration in Qurratulain Hyder’s Sita Betrayed and Amitav Ghosh’s The Shadow Lines.” Frontiers: A Journal of Women Studies, vol. 27, no. 2, 2006, pp. 1–26., doi:10.1353/fro.2007.0008.




Abigail Kaye 2020

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