‘A Shadow Class Condemned to Movement’: Literary Urban Imaginings of Illegal Migrant Lives in the Global North

  • Ruvani RanasinhaEmail author


This chapter examines how the city—and in particular, urban infrastructure and de facto segregation—shapes the physical and psychological experiences of Third World illegal migrants in Kiran Desai’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel, The Inheritance of Loss (2006). It situates Desai’s literary representations within the context of recent studies that have shown how illegal migrants face pronounced versions of the pressures associated with the globalisation of capital, neo-liberal politics, and flexible economic regimes within the new twenty-first-century labour processes: low pay, punishing hours, and high levels of job insecurity, together with the added anxiety of potential deportation. It examines how Third World undocumented labour’s lack of social and material rights to essential urban infrastructures influence the urban imaginary and aesthetics of subterranean space and segregation in Desai’s contemporary postcolonial novel. Here, the planned violence of the city is expressed in the exclusion, containment, and marginalisation of the global underclass built into the infrastructure of the major metropolitan city of New York, which becomes an extension of the cities of the global North. This challenges North American founding narratives of freedom and democracy, and underscores horizontal continuities with the global South, figuring them as integrated, rather than parallel spaces.

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.King’s College LondonLondonUK

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