Department or Program



Immigration is simultaneously idealized in American cultural memory and demonized in contemporary political discourse. Likewise, transculturalism defines American culture yet is frequently depicted as a threat to a dominant ideal of “America.” These contradictions have only become more entrenched in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. My thesis addresses these contradictions through an examination of three works of twenty-first century U.S. fiction: recent novels of immigration by Chimamanda Ngozie Adichie, Teju Cole, and Mohsin Hamid. All three texts feature protagonists whose experiences as “new Americans” force them to confront these ideological contestations in quite intimate terms; the dominant culture’s framing of “immigration” as both quintessentially American and anti-American translates, in these characters’ experiences, as a distinct feeling of psychological isolation that overlays their condition of ostensible belonging. In Adichie’s novel Americanah, Cole’s Open City, and Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist, their respective protagonists each experience feelings of community in explicitly multicultural, multiethnic, multiracial, and diasporic American urban spaces, but whose narratives nonetheless terminate in portraits of social and psychological isolation and alienation. My analysis draws on recent scholarship on transnationalism in American literature, theories of cosmopolitanism, and critical race theory to illuminate these novels’ nuanced responses to the ideological contradictions surrounding the theme of immigration in present-day U.S. culture from the perspective of American immigrants’ lived experiences.

Level of Access

Restricted: Campus/Bates Community Only Access

First Advisor

Osucha, Eden

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages



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