Journal article Open Access

"Doors That Could Take You Elsewhere" - Migration, Magic and Rancièrian Dissensus in Mohsin Hamid's Exit West

Brauer, Paula

Mohsin Hamid’s novel Exit West narrates migration in a magical realist way, breaking
with the stylistic conventions of his genre. Mysterious black doors transport
his characters from country to country, thus drastically altering the way in which
he portrays migration. This article analyses the effects of these alterations with the
help of Jacques Rancière’s work on the relation between arts and politics, especially
the idea of dissensus. It argues that there is a potential for disruption inherent to
magical realism because of its hybrid composition as the third space between magic
and realism. This disruptive power manifests itself on multiple levels in the novel.
Firstly, the category of distance is disintegrated as the magical doors blur physical
doors and, in the end, make them altogether redundant. Secondly, the notion of
time is fractured when the author sketches a possible future in which former populations
have mixed to live harmoniously alongside one another. Thirdly, and most
importantly, prior power relations in which migrants are excluded from politics
are reconfigured and models of political participation are restructured. Each of
these disruptions attacks the consensual order of politics and rethinks it in favour
of migrants and refugees so that it can be concluded that Rancièrian dissensus is
achieved in the novel.

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