Otherness

How do we define the “other”? Is it by the color of their skin, the language they speak, the place that they call home? Or is it by the stories that they share, the experiences they’ve had, who they are?

In Exit West, Mohsin Hamid takes the stance that we are all the “other”. On page 197, he states that “nativeness [is] a relative matter”, yet on page 209 he confirms that “we are all migrants through time.” It is hard to see the way in which one can hold both of these beliefs, but Hamid does so.

Because the “other”, like nativeness, is relative. There is no “us”. Every person is alone in one way or another. We are all migrants, so none of us are. We can relate to one another because of the shared groups that we cannot relate to.

There is no mutual recognition when it comes to the “other”. This is because we only become ourselves when the “other” becomes part of “us”. We find ourselves through the people we are grouped with, not the people we are pitted against. And in a world where everybody is a migrant, we can, at any point, be grouped with those people that were once the “other” to “us”.

3 thoughts on “Otherness

  1. Max L

    I think this is a really interest connection between the other and mutual recognition. I think it is essential that people really let their “otherness” into their self. People often try to separate the oddities that they have from their personality in order to fit into a construct or society, and I think that is really unhealthy. I think people will greatly benefit from understanding themselves better and I think that will lead to a stronger, more happy and prosperous society.

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  2. Evelyn R

    I was also intreguied by the conclusion the final chapters brought out that of otherness. That through each door they realized that it was so similar to their last situation. The author uses this progression to help us realize that everyone is a migrant, and I think we really get that in the last start of the old woman and daughter. That of her conclusion that nothing every stays the same and that for most it was hard to get used to the change.

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  3. I agree with your point that even though we put a lot of emphasis on “otherness” in society and politics, it’s a distinction that is imaginary and temporary because groups that were “other” can become part of “us.” Throughout American history, these “us” vs “them” groups have constantly changed– for example, different ethnic groups that might never have viewed themselves as connected have been lumped together into broad groups over time. These definitions of “otherness” have a strong impact on our society despite being completely false.

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