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Effects of Migration and Refugee Crisis in Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West: A Postcolonial Perspective

by Zain Ali
Effects of Migration and Refugee Crisis in Mohsin Hamid’s

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This document or research is done by Abeera Arshad Awan who completed their BS English degree from UMT Lahore.

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The persons we left behind are slaughtered when we migrate to another place because migration is not only a geographical displacement but also a displacement of culture, history, and ideals. It causes profound psychological crises and internal moral struggle. Diasporic literature is a broad term that refers to any literary works written by authors who live outside of their home country but are still tied to their culture and heritage. Its roots can be traced back to feelings of loss and alienation brought on by migration and relocation. The novel Exit West is about the diasporic experience but it is also about the good changes that occurred after migration. The current study, which is based on the novel Exit West, focuses on the experience of migration and the refugee crisis.


Post colonialism, Migration, Refugee Crisis, Immigrants, Relocation, and Displacement.


Migration affects either negatively or positively due to which nations have to suffer also. The activity of traveling to a country with the intent of establishing a permanent living arrangement is referred to as migration which is an important aspect of Post-colonialism. “Exit West” is a postcolonial novel, written by Mohsin Hamid. It was his fourth novel that was published in 2017 to rave reviews. The title is significant because it highlights the historical background, the problems raised with migration, and what are its consequences on the nations. “Exit West” is a story of two lovers Saeed and Nadia who met and fall in love as the Civil War breaks out in their country. As the country’s conditions were getting worse, both lovers don’t have any other option to save themselves. So, they were forced to leave their War-torn country with the help of magical doors. Due to the migration, they saw huge poverty and poor living conditions in different parts of the world. In this novel, Hamid explores the modern challenges of refugees by the use of magical realism in the novel. Post-colonialism is literature of fury, rage, anger, resistance, sadness, and destruction that focuses on the sufferings and efforts of people who struggle to survive in a country where they are treated as 3rd, 4th or 5th persons. It talks about the scars that colonizers left on colonized nations. There are several post-colonial elements in Exit West like the element of War, Refugee Crisis, Migration, British supremacy, Marginalization, Hybridity, The Quest for identity, Mimicry, Displacement, Love, Emotions, and Nostalgia. We can see the effects of migration in two ways: effects on the natives and effects on the general immigrants. The purpose of the conducted research is to explore the themes of migration and refugee crisis according to the postcolonial perspective.

Research Questions:

The present analysis of the Migration and Refugee Crisis of immigrants, focused on different research, aimed to address the following questions:

How does migration affect our lives and how through it, we murdered our own life?

What kind of challenges do refugees usually face after migration and how refugee crisis could make a better version of refugees?

Research Methodology:

The present study will look for answers following a qualitative methodology because this paper has been constructed by gathering information from different articles. This research took several days to complete. The present study is an effort to investigate the impact of the Migration and Refugee crisis on immigrants. According to this research, the culture and identity of a person have a great impact on him/her but through migration, we lost everything. Migration and Refugee crisis are major postcolonial elements that can lead to cultural and language barriers, growth in population, and several other leading issues. This methodology involved the following steps: Abstract, Introduction, Background, Research questions, Research Methodology, Theoretical framework, Literature review, analysis, and conclusion. So, through different studies of different researchers, we can presume that Migration affects one’s identity and culture.

Theoretical framework:

Several different authors have worked on Exit West and applied different theories on it. Post-colonialism is a literary theory that is also applied many times before but this time the purpose is to find out something new. The historical period that reflects the aftermath of British colonialism is known as post-colonialism. It entails a careful examination of the colonial experience and its past and contemporary consequences. It depicts the challenges, agony, suffering, and trauma that individuals in various regions of the world encountered in the early twentieth century as shown in Exit West. Simply put, it was an era during which European countries or regions seized control of neighboring countries.

Literature review:

In this part, there will be a discussion about others researchers’ ideas and our opinions as well. As we know Exit West contributes to literary discussions of current global migration and refugee issues. So, it is of great interest to scholars in the field of post-colonialism and literature.

M. A. Mir (2018) blames economic and social instability to migration in search of a proper living. He looks at Hamid’s Exit West (2017) as a modern depiction of individuals being compelled to relocate across countries/continents to flee conflict. Exit West conveys the suffering of migrants in an unfamiliar city torn by internal conflict. According to Mir, Hamid universalizes the pain of migrants by keeping the location unidentified. (Sadiq, Saleem, Javaid, 2)

Anum Aziz (2018) examines Hamid’s depictions of identity issues, migration, and transformations in a war-torn country in her review of Exit West. Aziz investigates the use of magical realism to convey the suffering of displaced people. As a result of war, terrorism, and repeated displacements, Aziz illustrates the construction of a microcosm of the world that is constantly in motion. (Sadiq, Saleem, Javaid, 2)

Oana-Celia Gheorghiu (2018) analyses how Exit West portrays the refugee crisis on emotional and political levels, using the backdrop of civil wars in Syria and Yemen. The use of magical realism illustrates the hardship of migratory refugees (p. 80). In addition, the novel represents the current state of polarisation in the European Union, Brexit, and border redrawing in the last two decades. (Sadiq, Saleem, Javaid, 3)

This research deals with different aspects of migration and the refugee crisis. According to this research, migration impacts nations physically, psychologically, socially, culturally, economically, and politically as well. In Exit West, Hamid depicted Migration in two ways: how migration affects immigrants and how it affects the natives. Throughout history, most authors presented migration in a destructive way but according to this research, migration along with negative effects also affects positively like in the novel, Saeed and Nadia after migration settled in a new country, adopt better ways of living, and made new individual identities.


 In this novel, Hamid shows millions of people who were slipping or leaving their countries to gain a peaceful life. These were the people who were now fed up with the continuous loss and suffering and Saeed and Nadia were also one of them. The title of the novel Exit West gives the meaning of leaving West or leaving a hometown. Then, the first line of the novel begins with the exposure to the Refugee crisis. “In a city swollen by REFUGEES but still mostly at peace or at least not yet openly at war”. Hamid wanted to say that the arrival of refugees in the city is a source of some terrible illness. Whereas, “but still” suggests that Refugees will surely create conflict with natives. There is another example of the refugee crisis.  “Refugees had occupied many of the open places in the city, pitching tents in the green belts between roads, ………………… Others stared out at the city with what looked like anger, surprise, supplication, or envy.” (Exit West, p.2)

When people leave their countries, they had to face several crises like in the novel, Saeed and Nadia after leaving their country entered an island of Mykonos where they had to live in camps. The British government treated them harshly and makes different plans to get the refugees out of their country. They lost their families, country, culture, identity, and everything after migration. This is how they murdered their own lives and made sacrifices that occur with migration. “Murder” is done intentionally. So, when we migrate we intentionally will lose everything. We left our previous identity, culture, and attachments and find ourselves merged in adopting new ways of life.

Likewise, migration also has positive effects. No doubt Saeed and Nadia suffered but they finally enhanced their lifestyle. The doors in the novel present hope and new opportunities for the migrants. Through Migration, people can adopt a superior life and make themselves better in every field. Saeed and Nadia find the actual meaning of their lives after migration. Saeed was interested in religion. So, he merged him in it. Nadia finds herself bisexual. In her country, she could not go against the societal rules but after migration, she can do anything of her own. They both made their individual identities once again. So, we should not consider migration only in a negative way because migration can change the world and make it a better place.

Limitations and Conclusion:

This article explores the positive and negative impacts of relocation or passage on refugees and how they lost and gained a new identity and culture of themselves. It also tells us about refugee crises and the political chaos they create. Refugee displacements are a reflection of migration across time.  The refugees are portrayed as a mob of people with ambiguous identities. On the other hand, Migration also proved beneficial for the immigrants as they entered into a new phase of life where they learnt a lot. Hamid depicted several postcolonial elements in the novel and others authors also worked on it but they missed some points of the points that are presented in this research. Here, the purpose of this research is to highlight the positive side of migration. So, if we want to be successful in life then we should always look at both sides of each matter.

Work Cited

“Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West: Invisible Borders and the Exclusion of Refugees.” EuropeNow, 4 Apr. 2019, www.europenowjournal.org/2019/04/04/mohsin-hamids-exit-west-invisible-borders-and-the-exclusion-of-refugees.

Singh, Jaspreet. “Envisioning Co-Existence: Exploring Responses to Migration in Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West.” International Journal of English Literature and Social Sciences, vol. 4, no. 6, 2019, pp. 1816–18. Crossref, https://doi.org/10.22161/ijels.46.29.

“How Far Are We Prepared to Go? Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West and the Refuge Crisis.” Taylor & Francis, www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/0950236X.2020.1745877. Accessed 26 Jan. 2022.

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