Poetics of Migration Trauma in Mohsin Hamid's "Exit West"


  • Qurratulaen Liaqat Forman Christian College (A Chartered University), Lahore




Trauma, Migration, Door, Poetics, Drone, Exit West, Mohsin Hamid


Migration has emerged as one of the most pertinent issues in the contemporary milieu. Currently, more than ever, people from many countries are being forced to migrate because of religious, social, cultural, national, racial and economic issues. This increasing trend of shifting from one place to another is causing an epistemological shift in the current milieu of human history. Exit West (2017) by Hamid is one of those novels that develops a discursive discourse of the ongoing migrant crisis, and highlights the ugly realities related to the phenomenon of relocation. It chronicles the story of two lovers, Nadia and Saeed, who migrate from their conflict-ridden country to save their lives. This paper configures the poetics of migration trauma in the contemporary literature by analyzing the symbols, metaphors and narrative technique used in Hamid's text with the aim of tracing a discursive aesthetic trajectory of the migration trauma discourse.

Author Biography

Qurratulaen Liaqat, Forman Christian College (A Chartered University), Lahore

Qurratulaen Liaqat has degrees in English Language and Literature. She is Assistant Professor at the Department of English, Forman Christian College, Pakistan. Her research interest are Pakistani Anglophone Fiction, American Drama, Postcolonial Literature, Post 9/11 Literature, and Posthuman Literature.


Alexander, J. C. (2012). Trauma: A Social Theory. Polity Press.

Arango, J. (2000). Explaining Migration: A Critical View. International Social Science Journal, 52(165), 283-296. https://doi.org/10.1111/1468-2451.00259

Balaev, M. (2014). Literary Trauma Theory Reconsidered. In M. Balaev (Ed.), Contemporary Approaches in Literary Trauma Theory (pp. 1-14). Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137365941_1

Broderick, M., & Traverso, A. (Eds.). (2010). Trauma, Media, Art: New Perspectives. Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

Buchanan, I. (2010). Oxford Dictionary of Critical Theory. OUP.

Buelens, G., Durrant, S., & Eaglestone, R. (Eds.). (2014). The Future of Trauma Theory: Contemporary Literary and Cultural Criticism. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203493106

Caruth, C. (2010). Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative and History. JHU Press.

Casper, M., & Wertheimer, E. (Eds.). (2016). Critical Trauma Studies: Understanding Violence, Conflict and Memory. NYU Press.

Castles, S. (2012). 7. Migration and Social Transformation. In M. Martiniello & J. Rath (Eds.), An Introduction to International Migration Studies: European Perspectives, (pp. 155-178). Amsterdam University Press, https://doi.org/10.1515/9789048517350-007

Cavallaro, J., Sonnenberg, S., & Knuckey, S. (2012). Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan, Stanford: International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, Stanford Law School; New York: NYU School of Law, Global Justice Clinic.

Conrad, J. (1990). Heart of Darkness. Dover Publications, Inc.

El Akkad, O. (2017, March 17). Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West, reviewed: A masterpiece of humility and restraint. The Globe and Mail. https://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/book-reviews/mohsin-hamids-exit-west-reviewed-a-masterpiece-of-humility-and-restraint/article34335946/

El Rashidi, Y. (2017, April 20). Caught Between Worlds. The New York Review of Books. https://www.nybooks.com/articles/2017/04/20/mohsin-hamid-caught-between-worlds/.

Frank, S. (2008). Migration and Literature: Günter Grass, Milan Kundera, Salman Rushdie, and Jan Kjærstad. Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230615472_5

Fraser, R. (2018). Literature, Music and Cosmopolitanism. Culture as Migration. Palgrave Macmillan. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-68480-2

Gálvez, A. (2014). Migration. In B. Burgett and G. Hendler. (Eds.), Keywords for American Cultural Studies (pp. 168-171). New York: NYU Press.

Gilbert, S. (2017, March 8). Exit West and the Edge of Dystopia. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/03/exit-west/518802/

Goldsworthy, K. (2017, May 26). Exit West review: Mohsin Hamid's brilliant novel of the plight of refugees. The Sydney Morning Herald. https://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/books/exit-west-review-mohsin-hamids-brilliant-novel-of-the-plight-of-refugees-20170526-gwdwsl.html.

Guillem, S. M. (2015). Migration Discourse. In K. Tracy, C. Ilie, & T. Sandel (Eds.), The International Encyclopedia of Language and Social Interaction (pp. 1-10). John Wiley & Sons, Inc. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118611463

Hamid, M. (2000) Moth Smoke. Granta.

Hamid, M. (2009) The Reluctant Fundamentalist. OUP.

Hamid, M. (2013). How to Get Filthy Rich in Rising Asia. Riverhead Books.

Hamid, M. (2017). Exit West. Penguin Random House.

Hardt, M., & Negri. A. (2000). Empire. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. https://doi.org/10.4159/9780674038325

Hass, Hein de. (2010). Migration and Development: A Theoretical Perspective. The International Migration Review, 44(1), 227-264. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-7379.2009.00804.x

Heidarizadeh, N. (2015). The Significant Role of Trauma in Literature and Psychoanalysis. Procedia - Social and Behavioral Sciences, 192, 788-795. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sbspro.2015.06.093

Held, D., McGrew, A., Goldblatt, D., & Perraton, J. (1999). Global transformations: Politics, Economics and Culture. Polity Press. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780333981689_2

Hron, M. (2018). The Trauma of Displacement. In R. Kurtz (Ed.), Trauma and Literature (pp. 284-298). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316817155.021

Jayet, H., & Rapoport, H. (2010). Migration and Development: New Insights. Annals of Economics and Statistics, 97/98, 5–12. https://doi.org/10.2307/41219107

Kurtz, R. (Ed.). (2018). Trauma and Literature. Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316817155

Marco M. & Jan R. (Eds.) An Introduction to International Migration Studies: European Perspectives. Amsterdam University Press.

Mazzetti, M. (2008). Trauma and migration: A transactional analytic approach toward refugees and torture victims. Transactional Analysis Journal, 38(4), 285-302. https://doi.org/10.1177/036215370803800404

Moslund, S. (2010). Migration Literature and Hybridity: The Different Speeds of Transcultural Change. Springer. https://doi.org/10.1057/9780230282711

Munck, R. (2008). Globalization, Governance and Migration: An Introduction. Third World Quarterly, 29(7), 1227-1246. https://doi.org/10.1080/01436590802386252

Nadal, M., & Calvo, M. (Eds.). (2014) Trauma in Contemporary Literature: Narrative and Representation. Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9781315880501

Naerssen Van, T., Ernst, S., & Zoomers, A. (2008). Global Migration and Development. Routledge.

Nandi, S. (2016). Trauma and its Traces in the Poetry of Paul Celan. Spring Magazine on English Literature, 2(1), 50-57.

Paik, P. Y. (2009). Introduction. In M. Bullock & P. Y. Paik (Eds.), Aftermaths: Exile, Migration, and Diaspora Reconsidered (pp. 1-12). Rutgers University Press. https://doi.org/10.36019/9780813545981-002

Sandhu, S. (2017, March 12). “Exit West by Mohsin Hamid – magical vision of the refugee crisis.” The Guardian. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/mar/12/exit-west-mohsin-hamid-review-refugee-crisis.

Schouler-Ocak, M. (Ed.). (2015). Trauma and migration: Cultural factors in the diagnosis and treatment of traumatised immigrants. Springer Nature. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-17335-1_7

Smith, S.S. (Ed.). (2004). The New International Webster’s Comprehensive Dictionary of the English Language. Encyclopaedic Edition. Trident Press International, New Delhi.

Soanes, C., & Stevenson, A. (Eds.). (2005). Oxford Dictionary of English (2nd ed.). OUP Oxford.

Stringer, D. (2010). Faulkner, Larsen, and Van Vechten. New York: Fordham University Press.

Tal, K. (1996). Worlds of Hurt: Reading the literatures of Trauma. Cambridge University Press.

Taylor J. E, Arango, J., Hugo, G., Kouaouci, A., Massey, D. S., & Pellegrino, A. (1996). International Migration and Community Development. Population Index, 62(3), 397-418. https://doi.org/10.2307/3645924

Toremans, T. (2018). Deconstruction: Trauma Inscribed in Language. In J. R. Kurtz (Ed.), Trauma and Literature (pp. 51–65). Cambridge University Press. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781316817155.005

White, P. (1995). Introduction. In J. Connell, R. King, & P. White (Eds.), Writing Across Worlds: Literature and Migration (pp. 1-30). Routledge. https://doi.org/10.4324/9780203426128_chapter_1




How to Cite

Liaqat, Q. (2022). Poetics of Migration Trauma in Mohsin Hamid’s "Exit West". English Studies at NBU, 8(1), 141–158. https://doi.org/10.33919/esnbu.22.1.8