Paper: ‘Salman Rushdie’s “Shalimar the Clown”: a Secularist Manifesto?’

My paper: ‘Salman Rushdie’s “Shalimar the Clown”: a Secularist Manifesto?’,  delivered at the international conference ‘Education and Secularism’, held on 30-31 May 2013 at the Université de Cergy-Pontoise, France, is now available on-line at:

Click to access RushdieShalimarCergyEN.pdf


Salman Rushdie’s commitment to secularism is a constant across his entire work, both fiction and non-fiction. Indeed, he may be described as a secular intellectual in the sense proposed by Edward Said in Representations of the Intellectual (1994). In his non-fiction, Rushdie has clearly and repeatedly affirmed secularist principles as he sees them, in a range of essays to be found in the volumes Imaginary Homelands (1991) and Step Across This Line (2002), and, most recently, in his memoir Joseph Anton (2012). This paper will endeavour to show how, in his novel of 2005 Shalimar the Clown (arguably the most secularist of all his fictional works), Rushdie puts forward the traditional culture and artisanal skills of Kashmir as embodying a kind of parallel or non-formal education, while also constituting a metonym for secularism in the Indian sense of neutrality between religious groups; and how this narrative, which, if centred on Kashmir, fans out in space and time to Nazi Europe, and to the contemporary US with its death penalty and its global interventionism, further implies a broader, transcultural vision of secularism as a libertarian world-view that is grounded in both the rational and the creative.

Note added 17 January 2014: The French-language version of this paper has now been published (see entry on this blog for 16 January 2014) as:

« ‘Shalimar the Clown’, de Salman Rushdie, récit laïque: une éducation séculaire et syncrétiste », in Evelyne Hanquart-Turner and Ludmila Volna (eds.), Éducation et Sécularisme: Perspectives africaines et asiatiques, Paris: Éditions Harmattan, 2013, pp. 197-210

Note added 15 May 2014: The English-language version of the paper has now been published (see entry on this blog for 15 May 2014) as:

“Salman Rushdie’s ‘Shalimar the Clown’: A Secularist Manifesto?’, in Journal of the Odisha Association for English Studies (Baleswar, India), Vol. 4, Issue 1, 2014, pp. 106-116



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