On Tuesday, December 12, 2017, I will discuss contemporary Pakistani writer Mohsin Hamid’s recent novel Exit West as part of the American University in Dubai’s Arts & Sciences Lecture Series. Hamid’s novel focuses on a young couple from an unnamed South Asian (or perhaps Middle Eastern) city that is overrun by fundamentalist insurgents. They escape from the city through one of a series of mysterious black doors that begin to appear throughout the world, a passage that thrusts them into a global stream of refugees fleeing violence and poverty for a better life in the West. They are transported from their home city to Greece, and then to England and America. Along the way they are confronted by the hardships of displacement, the ugly nativist backlash in Europe and the United States, and the subtle yet enduring personal changes they experience as they interact with unfamiliar cultures and values.
Exit West is a remarkable example of transnational literature, a genre that adopts a self-consciously global, rather than local or national, perspective. It explores time-space compression (the black doors), the construction of multicultural identities, global role reversals (the nativists become “the natives”), and the global refugee crisis. My lecture will bring these strains together to demonstrate how literature is able to represent one of our great humanitarian challenges, and how accelerated globalization, and especially the global flow of people, is reshaping contemporary literature away from national literary traditions and toward a transnational literary consciousness.
The Arts & Sciences Lecture Series promotes interaction between AUD’s faculty, students, and staff. Hosted twice during regular semesters, these evenings provide opportunities for faculty to share their research with the university community.