Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Cities Teetering at the Edge of the Abyss: Magical Cosmopolitanism, Neighbors, and the Speculative Global Commons in Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West

Saturday, July 7
2:40 PM - 4:10 PM
Location: Willow, First Floor

On March 14th, 2017, less than two months since Donald Trump issued Executive Order 13769, colloquially known as the “Travel Ban,” the Pakistani-British novelist Mohsin Hamid appeared on Late Night with Seth Meyers to promote his new novel, Exit West. The novel, which theorizes the European migrant crisis, the hegemonic control and management of the technological commons in Pakistan and elsewhere, and the biopolitical regulation of national borders, seems written in order to spark political dialogue.


Hamid, through the use of an unexplained technological novum in Exit West — the appearance of “magical” doors that transport people instantaneously from one part of the world to another — uses cognitive estrangement as a narrative strategy in order to illustrate the elasticity of national borders, the dangers of nativism, and the inadequacy of dominant conceptualizations of the technological, ecological, cultural, and “(in)human” commons for dealing with “global” catastrophes. 


Reading Hamid alongside and against theorists of the commons, such as Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Trinh T. Minh-ha, and Slavoj Žižek, this paper aims to illustrate and contend with the ways in which Hamid’s novel enacts both affective and theoretical work in conversation with emergent discourses concerning the global commons, cosmopolitan humanism, and migration. These discourses demand new conceptualizations and new forms of imagining, and my project’s significance will depend on whether or not it enables readers to rethink the global commons and the category of “the (in)human” not only as potential sites of catastrophe but also as fields or terrains for constructive political transformation.  



Preston Waltrip

University of California, Riverside, United States

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3 - Cities Teetering at the Edge of the Abyss: Magical Cosmopolitanism, Neighbors, and the Speculative Global Commons in Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West



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